In the case sub judice the State presented expert witness testimony at trial to the effect that pills found on Defendant Jimmy Waylon Ward’s person, in his vehicle, and at his residence were pharmaceuticals classified as controlled substances under the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act. N.C.G.S. ch. 90, art. 5 (2009). The issue for our review is whether the trial court abused its discretion by permitting the State’s expert witness to identify certain pills when the expert’s methodology consisted solely of a visual inspection process. Under the facts of this case, the testifying expert’s visual identification of the purported controlled substances is not sufficiently reliable under N.C.G.S. § 8C-1, Rule 702. Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion, and we affirm the Court of Appeals.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In relevant part, the State’s evidence at trial tended to show that Mandy Pope visited the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Vice and Narcotics Division, on 22 August 2006 seeking to assist law enforcement in an investigation of the individual who allegedly supplied her mother with illicit pharmaceuticals on a regular basis. Pope telephoned defendant from the Sheriff’s Office and arranged to meet him at the Carolina Beach Exxon station for the purpose of purchasing thirty Lorcet pills for six dollars per pill. Lorcet is an opium deriva*135tive, a Schedule III controlled substance. After law enforcement placed a transmitter device in her purse and gave her three hundred dollars in United States currency, Pope traveled with Detective Nancy Willaford in an undercover minivan to the designated Exxon station, arriving shortly after 8:00 p.m. Several other undercover law enforcement officers conducted surveillance and provided security and back-up support. Defendant arrived five to ten minutes later and parked his black Chevrolet Monte Carlo next to the minivan. Pope then exited the minivan and entered defendant’s vehicle. Detective Willaford remained in the minivan. Pope and defendant conversed in his vehicle, and then both exited when defendant retrieved something from the trunk of his vehicle. Pope and defendant then returned to defendant’s vehicle, and Pope purchased from defendant thirty blue, oval-shaped pills, which Pope believed to be Lorcets, for one hundred eighty dollars in United States currency. Pope then exited defendant’s vehicle, entered the minivan, and traveled back to the Sheriff’s Office with Detective Willaford. Defendant left the Exxon station in his vehicle, and several law enforcement officers continued their surveillance by following him to his residence. Pope returned the remaining money and delivered the pills she purchased from defendant to law enforcement.
Based on the officers’ surveillance and the events at the Carolina Beach Exxon station, warrants were obtained the next day, 23 August 2006, to arrest defendant and search his residence. After observing a black Monte Carlo leave the mobile home park where defendant resided, law enforcement officers stopped the vehicle and confirmed that defendant was the operator. Defendant was arrested and his person and vehicle were searched incident to the arrest. Law enforcement recovered three pill bottles and six hundred twenty dollars in United States currency from defendant. One bottle contained blue tablets and had a label attached indicating thirty tablets of Hydrocodone in the name of Jimmy W. Ward. A second medicine bottle with an illegible affixed label contained white tablets. The third bottle contained three different kinds of pills and had a label attached indicating sixty tablets of generic Xanax in the name of defendant’s cousin, Manuel Ward. Law enforcement officers also searched the trunk of defendant’s vehicle and discovered several more bottles of pills and a bank envelope containing blue pills. A prescription bottle and an additional nine hundred five dollars were retrieved from under the trunk’s carpeting. Law enforcement officers then searched defendant’s residence and storage shed and another vehicle at the premises. From this search, officers seized a number of items, includ*136ing a digital scale, a silver metal pipe fashioned as a smoking device, a substance resembling off-white rocks, a bottle containing ninety-three tablets with an affixed label indicating Hydrocodone for Manuel Ward, and a plastic drinking cup containing full and half pill tablets.
On 25 September 2006, the New Hanover County Grand Jury returned six true bills of indictment charging defendant with numerous crimes related to his activities on 22 and 23 August 2006 and the resulting searches previously described. At trial Special Agent Irvin Lee Allcox, a chemist in the Drug Chemistry Section of the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) crime laboratory, was qualified and testified as an expert in chemical analysis of drugs and forensic chemistry. He testified to working over thirty-four years for the SBI, including the most recent twenty-four years as a chemist in the SBI crime laboratory. He stated he had previously testified as an expert in forensic chemistry over five hundred times in state and federal courts. Among the items the SBI laboratory received for examination from the New Hanover County Sheriffs Office pertaining to this case, Special Agent Allcox identified the following controlled substances: Dihydrocodeinone, Hydrocodone, and Oxycodone, which are opium derivatives, and cocaine, Amphetamine, Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium), and Methylphenidate (Ritalin). He also identified Carisoprodol (Soma), which is not a controlled substance.
In response to questions concerning the identification process, Special Agent Allcox testified that of the sixteen collections of items submitted, he conducted a chemical analysis on “about half of them.” The remaining tablets were identified solely by visual inspection and comparison with information provided by Micromedex1 literature, which Special Agent Allcox described as a “medical publication that is used by the doctors in hospitals and pharmacies to identify prescription medicine.” According to Special Agent Allcox, the SBI has used Micromedex in some capacity throughout the nearly thirty-five years he has been associated with the agency. He testified that through “a listing of all the pharmaceutical markings,” Microme*137dex can help “identify the contents, the manufacturer and the type of substances in the tablets.” He believed that counterfeit tablets were obvious to distinguish because they lacked the uniform color, shape, and markings associated with the high standards of the pharmaceutical industry. In his opinion, no tablets seized in this case were counterfeit.
When asked why he performed only a visual inspection with Micromedex literature on some of the tablets and a chemical analysis on others, Special Agent Allcox focused his response on concerns for maximizing time and resources: “[W]e have limited resources and we have to weed out — we have to analyze the most important items. . . . [W]e don’t have the resources to analyze everything that’s submitted.” He also indicated that SBI standard operating procedures determined which substances received which type of analysis depending on the information provided to the laboratory by the law enforcement officer submitting the evidence. Physical evidence submitted to the SBI laboratory for analysis must be accompanied by Form SBI-5, “Request for Examination of Physical Evidence.’’ Crime Lab Div., N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, Evidence Guide 11, 13-15, 20 (Jan. 1, 2010), available at http://www.ncdoj.gov/About-DOJ/State-Bureau-ofInvestigation/Crim e-Lab/NCSBI-Evidence-Guide.aspx. In Part B of Form SBI-5, the requesting officer is asked to give a “ [description of the incident (Brief Summary of the events of the crime)” or to attach a copy of the investigative report. Id. at 15.
Special Agent Allcox described the significance of the requesting officer’s description of the incident under investigation in terms of which type of analysis he performed. For instance, one collection of thirty pills in this case was not chemically analyzed because, based on the submission sheet given to the laboratory, the number of tablets submitted could potentially support only a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance. Under standard operating procedures, substances supporting only misdemeanor charges were routinely identified solely by visual inspection with comparison to the Micromedex literature. However, substances that were submitted to the laboratory under circumstances that would support felony charges received “a complete analysis” pursuant to laboratory procedures. (Emphasis added.) Defense counsel was quick to highlight on cross-examination that the collection of thirty pills at issue was ultimately used to bring a felony trafficking charge and not a misdemeanor possession charge. In response, Special Agent Allcox testified: “If the officer had indicated that it was an undercover buy case *138when submitting these 30 tablets, then I would have done a complete analysis." (Emphasis added.)
The trial court admitted Special Agent Allcox’s testimony regarding the substances on which he conducted a chemical analysis;2 furthermore, over defendant’s objections, the trial court also admitted Special Agent Allcox’s testimony regarding substances which he identified merely by visual inspection and reference to the Micromedex literature.3
Defendant offered evidence and testified to the effect that most of the seized items were his legitimate prescription medications or they belonged either to his cousin Manuel Ward or to a girlfriend. He denied selling controlled substances to Mandy Pope on 22 August 2006, and he explained that he acquired the large sums of currency through buying and selling automobiles, a business he operated with his cousin Manuel Ward.
The jury returned guilty verdicts against defendant for six counts of trafficking in opium (three counts from his activities on 22 August *1392006 and three counts arising from his arrest and the searches conducted on 23 August 2006), and single counts of intentionally maintaining a dwelling for keeping or selling controlled substances, possession of cocaine, intentionally maintaining a vehicle for keeping or selling controlled substances, possession of Ritalin with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of Xanax with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of Valium with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of Oxycodone with the intent to sell or deliver, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The trial court arrested the jury’s guilty verdict in connection with the conviction for possessing Oxycodone with the intent to sell or deliver. All charges were consolidated for judgment, and defendant was sentenced to an active term of 90 to 117 months of imprisonment and a $100,000 fine pursuant to the guidelines established in N.C.G.S. § 90-95(h)(4)(b). Defendant then gave notice of appeal.
On appeal defendant challenged thé trial court’s admission of prior bad acts evidence in connection with an arrest on 10 February 2005, as well as Special Agent Allcox’s testimony identifying certain items as controlled substances based solely on a visual inspection process. The Court of Appeals issued a unanimous opinion on 18 August 2009 finding no error in part and ordering a new trial in part. State v. Ward, — N.C. App. —, —, 681 S.E.2d 354, 373-74 (2009). Defendant’s convictions for trafficking in opium on 23 August 2006 and for possession of cocaine were left undisturbed; however, the Court of Appeals vacated defendant’s other convictions and ordered a new trial as to those offenses. Id. We allowed the State’s motion for temporary stay on 4 September 2009. On 8 October 2009, this Court allowed the State’s petitions for writ of supersedeas and for discretionary review to address whether the trial court abused its discretion by permitting Special Agent Allcox to give expert opinion testimony identifying certain pills based solely on a visual inspection methodology.
When reviewing the ruling of a trial court concerning the admissibility of expert opinion testimony, the standard of review for an appellate court is whether the trial court committed an abuse of discretion. Howerton v. Arai Helmet, Ltd., 358 N.C. 440, 458, 597 S.E.2d 674, 686 (2004) (citations omitted). An “ ‘[a]buse of discretion results where the court’s ruling is manifestly unsupported by reason or is so arbitrary that it could not have been the result of a reasoned decision.’ ” State v. Elliott, 360 N.C. 400, 419, 628 S.E.2d 735, 748 (quoting *140 State v. Hennis, 323 N.C. 279, 285, 372 S.E.2d 523, 527 (1988)), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1000 (2006).
Under the North Carolina Rules of Evidence, when “scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion.” N.C.G.S. § 8C-1, Rule 702(a) (2009). Under Rule of Evidence 702, this Court has established three steps “for evaluating the admissibility of expert testimony: (1) Is the expert’s proffered method of proof sufficiently reliable as an area for expert testimony? (2) Is the witness testifying at trial qualified as an expert in that area of testimony? (3) Is the expert’s testimony relevant?” Howerton, 358 N.C. at 458, 597 S.E.2d at 686 (citing State v. Goode, 341 N.C. 513, 527-29, 461 S.E.2d 631, 639-41 (1995)). The proponent of the expert witness, in this case the State, has “the burden of tendering the qualifications of the expert” and demonstrating the propriety of the testimony under this three-step approach. See Crocker v. Roethling, 363 N.C. 140, 144, 675 S.E.2d 625, 629 (2009). The parties view this case as implicating only the first step of the evaluation, so we will only address whether the method of proof was sufficiently reliable as an area for expert testimony.
Determining the reliability of a method of proof is “a preliminary, foundational inquiry into the basic methodological adequacy of an area of expert testimony.” Howerton, 358 N.C. at 460, 597 S.E.2d at 687. In order to
determine whether an expert’s area of testimony is considered sufficiently reliable, “a court may look to testimony by an expert specifically relating to the reliability, may take judicial notice, or may use a combination of the two.” Initially, the trial court should look to precedent for guidance in determining whether the theoretical or technical methodology underlying an expert’s opinion is reliable.
Id. at 459, 597 S.E.2d at 687 (quoting Goode, 341 N.C. at 530, 461 S.E.2d at 641). In the event that precedent does not guide the determination, or if a trial court is “faced with novel scientific theories, unestablished techniques, or compelling new perspectives on otherwise settled theories or techniques,” then “nonexclusive ‘indices of reliability’ ” may be used to answer the question of reliability. Id. at 460, 597 S.E.2d at 687 (citations omitted). Several recognized indices *141of reliability are “the expert’s use of established techniques, the expert’s professional background in the field, the use of visual aids before the jury so that the jury is not asked to sacrifice its independence by accepting [the] scientific hypotheses on faith, and independent research conducted by the expert.” Id. (alteration in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Recently, the field of forensic science has come under acute scrutiny on a nationwide basis. When articulating the right of a criminal defendant under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution to confront forensic analysts as witnesses at trial, the Supreme Court of the United States in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts was quick to recognize the significance of a landmark report issued in 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences. — U.S. —, —, 129 S. Ct. 2527, 2536 (2009) (citing Comm, on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Scis. Cmty., Nat’l Research Council, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (2009) [hereinafter National Academy Report], available at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffilesl/nij/grants/228091.pdf and http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12589&page=Rl). Relying on the National Academy Report in part, the Court commented that “[f]orensic evidence is not uniquely immune from the risk of manipulation,” id. at —, 129 S. Ct. at 2536, and “[s]erious deficiencies have been found in the forensic evidence used in criminal trials,” id. at-, 129 S. Ct. at 2537. The funding for the National Academy Report came from Congress in 2005 when it provided $1.5 million. H.R. Rep. No. 109-272, at 121 (2005) (Conf. Rep.). As a result, a diverse committee of forensic experts, scientists, and members of the legal community, conducted several years of research and concluded that the pervasive sentiment was that “[t]he forensic science system, encompassing both research and practice, has serious problems that can only be addressed by a national commitment to overhaul the current structure that supports the forensic science community in this country.” National Academy Report Preface, at xx (Emphasis omitted). .Among its many findings, the committee noted that forensic scientists “sometimes face pressure to sacrifice appropriate methodology for the sake of expediency.” Id. Summary, at 24. The committee further found that “[t]here are many hard-working and conscientious people in the forensic science community, but  under-resourcing inherently limits their ability to do their best work.” Id. at 15.
*142In the case sub judice our determination is guided in part by precedent, enactments of the General Assembly, and Special Agent Allcox’s own testimony. We conclude that the visual inspection methodology Special Agent Allcox proffered as an area for expert testimony is not sufficiently reliable to identify the substances at issue.
In State v. Llamas-Hemandez a jury found the defendant guilty of trafficking in cocaine after hearing lay witness testimony from two law enforcement detectives who seized “a white powdery substance weighing approximately 55 grams” at a residence where the defendant was a co-tenant. 189 N.C. App. 640, 643, 659 S.E.2d 79, 81 (2008), rev’d per curiam, 363 N.C. 8, 673 S.E.2d 658 (2009). The substance was chemically analyzed nine months before trial, but the laboratory report was not admitted into evidence as a sanction against the State for discovery violations. Id. at 651, 659 S.E.2d at 86 (Steelman, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). The trial court allowed the detectives to testify as lay witnesses that the substance was powder cocaine based on their law enforcement experience and training in identifying controlled substances. Id. at 643, 647, 659 S.E.2d at 81, 83 (majority).
Subsequently, this Court reversed the Court of Appeals majority decision for “the reasons stated in the dissenting opinion.” LlamasHemandez, 363 N.C. at 8, 673 S.E.2d at 658. The dissenting judge concluded that by providing “procedures for the admissibility of  laboratory reports” and “enacting such a technical, scientific definition of cocaine, it is clear that the General Assembly intended that expert testimony be required to establish that a substance is in fact a controlled substance.” Llamas-Hemandez, 189 N.C. App. at 652, 659 S.E.2d at 86-87 (Steelman, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (citing N.C.G.S. § 90-90(l)(d) (2007) (defining cocaine) and id. §§ 8-58.20, 90-95(g), (gl) (2007) (establishing procedures for admitting laboratory reports)). The dissent argued that “if it was intended by the General Assembly that an officer could make a visual identification of a controlled substance, then such provisions in the statutes would be unnecessary.” Id. at 653, 659 S.E.2d at 87. The natural next step following our decision to adopt the reasoning of the dissenting judge in Llamas- Hernandez is to conclude here that the expert witness testimony required to establish that the substances introduced here are in fact controlled substances must be based on a scientifically valid chemical analysis and not mere visual inspection.4
*143Next, as in Llamas-Hemandez, we find acts of the General Assembly relevant to our decision. First and foremost is the obvious point that throughout the lists of Schedule I through VI controlled substances found in sections 90-89 through 90-94, care is taken to provide very technical and “specific.chemical designation[s]” for the materials referenced therein. E.g., N.C.G.S. §§ 90-89(1) (opiates), -90(2) (opiates), -91(j) (stimulants), -92(a)(1) (depressants). These scientific definitions imply the necessity of performing a chemical analysis to accurately identify controlled substances before the criminal penalties in N.C.G.S. § 90-95 are imposed.
Furthermore, the legislature has made it unlawful not only to “manufacture, sell or deliver, or possess with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver, a controlled substance,” id. § 90-95(a)(l), but it is also illegal to “create, sell or deliver, or possess with intent to sell or deliver, a counterfeit controlled substance,” id. § 90-95(a)(2) (emphasis added). The statutory definition of “[c]ounterfeit controlled substance,” id. § 90-87(6), designates three factors that collectively indicate evidence of an intent to misrepresent a controlled substance. One of the factors is that the “physical appearance of the tablets, capsules or other finished product containing the substance is substantially identical to a specified controlled substance.” Id. § 90-87(6) (b)(3). Clearly, the General Assembly contemplated that anyone manufacturing a counterfeit substance would make it look as close to the genuine product as possible. By imposing criminal liability for actions related to counterfeit controlled substances, the legislature not only acknowledged that their very existence poses a threat to the health and well-being of citizens in our state, but that a scientific, chemical analysis must be employed to properly differentiate between the real and the counterfeit. Even a different felony class *144level is assigned for sentencing purposes based on whether a particular item is a genuine or fake controlled substance. Compare id. § 90-95(b) (assigning various felony levels to criminal activity relating to controlled substances, including Classes C, G, H, and I) with id. § 90-95(c) (stating that “[a]ny person who violates G.S. 90-95(a) (2) [the counterfeit controlled substance provision] shall be punished as a Class I felon”). As such, a scientifically valid chemical analysis of alleged controlled substances is critical to properly enforcing the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act.
In addition to the guidance we receive from precedent and enactments of the General Assembly, we may also “ ‘look to testimony by an expert specifically relating to the reliability’ ” of the method of proof. Howerton, 358 N.C. at 459, 597 S.E.2d at 687 (quoting Goode, 341 N.C. at 530, 461 S.E.2d at 641). Here, Special Agent Allcox’s testimony is lacking in sufficient credible indicators to support the reliability of his visual inspection methodology. There is little evidence in the record either implying that identification of controlled substances by mere visual inspection is scientifically reliable or suggest-, ing that Special Agent Allcox’s particular methodology was uniquely reliable. His testimony is completely devoid of any scientific data or demonstration of the reliability of his methodology. Moreover, in stating, “I have not seen counterfeit pharmaceuticals that you cannot look at and see that they were counterfeit,” and “I have seen very few pharmaceutical counterfeits over the years,” Special Agent Allcox did not provide positive proof for the reliability of his methodology, especially when “the rising occurrence of potentially unsafe counterfeit drugs” is considered. U.S. Food & Drug Admin., FDA Initiative to Combat Counterfeit Drugs, http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm180899.htm (last visited June 4, 2010) (emphasis added); see also Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Security: Hearing Before the H. Subcomm. on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources of the Comm. on Government Reform, 109th Cong. 24 (2006) (“ ‘Counterfeit prescription drugs . . . pose a serious threat to the public health. Many are visually indistinguishable from authentic drugs' ” (emphasis added) (quoting U.S. Food & Drug Admin., FDA Counterfeit Drug Task Force Report: 2006 Update, at 1, available at http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucml72773.htm)); Robert C. Bird, Counterfeit Drugs: A Global Consumer Perspective, 8 Wake Forest Intell. Prop. L.J. 387, 387, 389 (2008) (“The proliferation of counterfeit medicines is one of the most pressing issues facing the pharmaceutical industry. . . . The World *145Health Organization estimates that ... up to 20% [of drugs] sold in developed countries are counterfeit.” (citations omitted)).
Rather than demonstrating its proven reliability, Special Agent Allcox’s explanation for using Micromedex literature focused on concerns for expediency and maximizing limited laboratory resources in light of the relative seriousness of the criminal charges. The SBI’s own website states that “chemists perform the chemical analysis of evidence from criminal investigations, such as drugs,” and “chemists utilize state-of-the-art instrumentation systems to analyze evidence.” N.C. Dep’t of Justice, State Bureau of Investigation, Drug Chemistry & Toxicology, http://www.ncdoj.gov/About-DOJ/State-Bureauof-Investigation/Crim e-Lab/Drug-Chemistry-and-Toxicology. aspx (last visited June 4, 2010). Apparently, however, this is not invariably the case. On cross-examination Special Agent Allcox explained: “And the procedure!] in the crime laboratory is that misdemeanor pharmaceutical cases, if it’s misdemeanor amounts, less than a felony amount, then we do an identification using the Micromedics [sic] files and cases involving felony amounts, then we do a complete analysis" (Emphasis added.) It is difficult to view this testimony as reflecting anything other than a technique for “cutting comers.” Thus, even Special Agent Allcox’s own testimony casts an unsettling shadow of doubt on the reliability of mere visual inspection as a method of proof.
In arguing for the reliability of a visual inspection methodology, the State emphasizes Special Agent Allcox’s professional experience and contends that “Micromedex is a well-established method that has been used by the crime lab for 35 years and is also used by doctors and pharmacists.” The State submits that any shortcomings inherent to the visual identification process should be measured by the jury only when considering the weight of the evidence. We disagree.
Special Agent Allcox’s credentials are not disputed; he appears to be eminently qualified as an expert witness in forensic chemistry. He has worked over thirty-four years with the SBI, including twenty-four years as a forensic chemist, and he handles pharmaceuticals on nearly a daily basis. The prosecutor at trial referred to him as “supremely qualified.” However, the issue here concerns the reliability of his method of proof, which is a “preliminary, foundational inquiry.” Howerton, 358 N.C. at 460, 597 S.E.2d at 687. “Once the trial court has determined that the method of proof is sufficiently reliable as an area for expert testimony, the next level of inquiry is whether *146the witness testifying at trial is qualified as an expert to apply this method to the specific facts of the case.” Goode, 341 N.C. at 529, 461 S.E.2d at 640 (emphasis added) (citing N.C. R. Evid. 702).5
Special Agent Allcox’s remarkable credentials as a forensic chemist presents a particularly compelling need to halt his testimony when it is based on an insufficient method of proof. In State v. Grier this Court held that polygraph evidence is inadmissible at trial because of the inherent unreliability of polygraph tests. 307 N.C. 628, 642-45, 300 S.E.2d 351, 359-61 (1983). As well, this Court was “disturbed by the possibility that the jury may be unduly persuaded” by the testimony of the polygraph examiner, which would likely “ ‘be shrouded with an aura of near infallibility.’ ” Id. at 643, 300 S.E.2d at 360 (quoting United States v. Alexander, 526 E2d 161, 168 (8th Cir. 1975)). This Court further noted that “ ‘[t]o the extent that the polygraph results are accepted as unimpeachable or conclusive by jurors, despite cautionary instructions by the trial judge, the jurors’ traditional responsibility to collectively ascertain the facts and adjudge guilt or innocence is preempted.’ ” Id. at 644, 300 S.E.2d at 360 (quoting Alexander, 526 F.2d at 168). The concern in the present context is that jurors may ascribe so much authority to such a noteworthy expert in forensic chemistry that they treat his testimony as infallible and automatically accept his opinion on the chemical composition of a substance, without properly appreciating — even with vigorous cross-examination and proper jury instructions — that the expert chemist never even performed a scientific, chemical analysis.
Additionally, the length of time a method has been employed does not necessarily heighten its reliability or alleviate our concerns. The SBI’s practice has been illuminated here due in part to the Supreme Court of the United States decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, in which the Court indicated that the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution *147applies to forensic analysts generating laboratory reports in criminal investigations because the reports are testimonial in nature. — U.S. at —, 129 S. Ct. at 2531-32; see also State v. Locklear, 363 N.C. 438, 452, 681 S.E.2d 293, 304-05 (2009) (applying Melendez-Diaz to a forensic analyst’s autopsy report). Forensic chemists are being called upon to testify as expert witnesses so that defendants have an opportunity for cross-examination. The practical effect of the Melendez-Diaz ruling is that through cross-examination more light is being shed on the procedures expert witnesses use to support their testimony. In some instances, when practices are illuminated “in the crucible of cross-examination,” their shortcomings become apparent. See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 61 (2004). In this way, the Confrontation Clause gradually advances its “ultimate goal,” which is to “ensure reliability of evidence.” Id.
Furthermore, the State notes that doctors and pharmacists utilize Micromedex literature in the health care industry. However, if health care professionals make mistakes there are established legal avenues of recourse for damages. The consequences at stake in a criminal prosecution make the present situation somewhat different. The reliability of an expert witness’s method of proof should be addressed before a defendant is found guilty, stripped of his liberty, and serves a sentence of incarceration.
Because the method of proof at issue is not sufficiently reliable for criminal prosecutions, we cannot conclude, as the State argues, that the deficiencies of Special Agent Allcox’s visual identification process only affect the amount of weight the jury assigns to his testimony. Adopting that view would circumvent the fundamental issue at stake, that is, the reliability of the evidence, and would risk a greater number of false positive identifications.
We acknowledge that controlled substances come in many forms and that we are unable to. foresee every possible scenario that may arise during a criminal prosecution. Nevertheless, the burden is on the State to establish the identity of any alleged controlled substance that is the basis of the prosecution. Unless the State establishes before the trial court that another method of identification is sufficient to establish the identity of the controlled substance beyond a reasonable doubt, some form of scientifically valid chemical analysis is required. This holding is limited to North Carolina Rule of Evidence 702. Our ruling does not affect visual identification techniques employed by law enforcement for other purposes, such as *148conducting criminal investigations. Moreover, common sense limits this holding regarding the scope of the chemical analysis that must be performed. The State submitted sixteen batches of items consisting of over four hundred tablets to the SBI laboratory in this case. A chemical analysis of each individual tablet is not necessary. The SBI maintains standard operating procedures for chemically analyzing batches of evidence, and the propriety of those procedures is not at issue here. A chemical analysis is required in this context, but its scope may be dictated by whatever sample is sufficient to make a reliable determination of the chemical composition of the batch of evidence under consideration. As this Court stated in Howerton, expert testimony need not be “indisputably valid before it can be admitted into evidence.” 358 N.C. at 460, 597 S.E.2d at 687.
The aim is that the analysis be objective. SBI chemists are in a unique position. The SBI is “a division of the Department of Justice,” and Special Agent Allcox is a sworn law enforcement officer who “work[s] closely with local police and Sheriffs, [and] district attorneys.” N.C. Dep’t of Justice, State Bureau of Investigation, http://www.ncdoj.gov/about-DOJ/state-bureau-of-investigation.aspx (last visited June 4, 2010). Yet, subjectivity that may unwittingly lead to law enforcement bias is a peril that should be guarded against in the field of forensic science. In the end, our holding today will, we think, promote not merely convictions of those who have violated the Controlled Substances Act, but will help ensure true justice. Ultimately, the State is better served by identifying perpetrators with reliable evidence and reducing the likelihood that convictions rest on inaccurate data.
For the foregoing reasons we conclude that, as the proponent of Special Agent Allcox’s expert witness testimony, the State has not carried its burden of demonstrating the sufficient reliability of his visual inspection methodology. Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion by permitting Special Agent Allcox to identify certain evidence as controlled substances based merely on visual inspection as a method of proof. We affirm the Court of Appeals as to the issue before us and remand to that court for further remand to the trial court for additional proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
AFFIRMED AND REMANDED.
Justice TIMMONS-GOODSON concurrs in the result only.