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Lack of resources at state crime lab causing delays in drug case prosecutions

Posted August 20, 2013

— State and local law enforcement officials say a backlog of evidence awaiting testing at the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory is delaying prosecution of drug cases.

Part of the reason, they say, is that there are not enough scientists to test seized substances to verify that they are actually illegal as well as the approximately 10,000 blood samples for the presence of drugs and alcohol.

"Everyone in the court system is very frustrated with this," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said.

For years, Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Justice have asked the state for more resources and staffing, but those requests have had mixed success.

Recently, the North Carolina General Assembly approved 19 new toxicology scientist positions, but filling the posts and training new hires could take up to two years.

Court cases State crime lab worker shortage creates case backlog

In addition, state salaries for forensic scientists are lower compared to similar positions in private or other public labs, making it difficult for the State Bureau of Investigation to retain employees.

"What we have is the perfect storm," Cooper said. "We've had budget cuts, and we've had a significant increase in the amount of cases."

In Cumberland County, for example, District Attorney Billy West says 758 drug cases are on hold because investigators are waiting on test results from the crime lab.

Concerns about delays in Wake County led county commissioners to allocate funding for chemists to analyze evidence instead of relying on the SBI.

"We're much more fortunate because of our county commissioners seeing the need and responding to it," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • CommonSenseForNC Aug 21, 2013

    DECRIMINALIZATION IS NEEDED! the public is in agreement that the drug war has failed. LEO unions, big pharma, alcohol & tobacco are all against proper regulation. when the drug dealers and the cops agree that they want everything to stay illegal something is wrong...

  • cbrandonwilliamson Aug 21, 2013

    Maybe they should be focusing on real crimes instead of drug possession cases.

  • dollibug Aug 21, 2013

    As government workers get BIG RAISES....this department needs SUPPLIES......really?

  • sunshineonmyshoulder Aug 21, 2013

    drug possession should not me prosecuted unless it is a ton with intent to distrubute



  • Mom120 Aug 21, 2013

    drug possession should not me prosecuted unless it is a ton with intent to distrubute

  • Qwerty27807 Aug 21, 2013

    Stop wasting resources prosecuting drug "crimes" maybe? Nah, that would take all the money out of the criminal justice system, from street cop "task forces" through the courts (on both sides), to the "corrections" system.

    What has this accomplished besides locking tons of people up and ruining lives?

  • GOPtakersSociety Aug 21, 2013

    hey guy's, maybe you can get those field test kits from the cops? they use those to detain the big old users

  • miseem Aug 20, 2013

    Smart. Real smart.