A North Carolina TV station reports that a backlog in blood-alcohol tests analyzed at Raleigh’s State Crime Lab is slowing prosecutors across the state.
The station says some of those charged with driving while intoxicated are seeing their cases delayed months and some might spend “years waiting for their cases to come up.”
The director of the lab blames the delay on an increase in DWI arrests, combined with insufficient lab staffing and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The director said that the justices changed the way lab submitted evidence with their ruling in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Before the ruling, the state lab could submit its findings with affidavits. Now lab employees based in Raleigh and Greensboro must appear in court in person.
So employees are often on the road or in court rather than in the lab analyzing blood drawn from drivers accused of drunk driving.
The director says the lab is shorthanded to begin with: it has a dozen analysts and thousands of cases. Last year, there were about 9,300 DWI cases in the state. “Twelve into 9,300 doesn’t work out very favorably for a prompt disposition of many of the cases,” the director said.
He added that the lab is considering expanding its operations with a facility or arrangement with a hospital in the western part of the state.
The problem with opening a new state facility in western North Carolina is an age-old one: finding the funding, the director said. A proposal for the new lab has been submitted to the General Assembly and it’s up to lawmakers to decide whether or not to fund it, he said.
The state lab might well see an additional surge of cases to deal with after this holiday weekend. As we all know, long weekends often lead to increased highway patrols and a spike in DWI arrests.
An experienced attorney can help those arrested sort through all the legal options available and help a defendant figure out which course of action is best.
Source: WLOS, “Special Report: DWI Backlog,” Nov. 21, 2013