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Halifax County Avoids Long Waits With In-House Drug Testing

It takes an average of seven months some drug testing to be completed by State Bureau of Investigation lab. Now, one county is taking matters into their own hands.

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ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — Crowded jails and a backlog in the state court system have delayed many cases where drug evidence has to be tested before trial. It takes an average of seven months some tests to be completed by State Bureau of Investigation lab. Now, one county is taking matters into their own hands.

Halifax County has become one of three counties in North Carolina to do their testing in their own offices. As a result, results are provided in a matter of minutes.

On Wednesday, Halifax County Lt. Steve Salmon took a small sample from evidence collected a week ago and added a chemical solution. Four minutes later, the material went into a test seal and into the Nar Test machine. Within minutes, the computer had an answer as to what kind of substance was in there.

“It shows you on the left-hand side that marijuana was present,” Salmon said.

Sheriff Jeff Frazier brought the system in on a test run two years ago. Sheriff’s officials previously waited up to a year for results from the SBI lab.

Now Frazier can have a complete test done in 15 minutes, and suspects in court much faster – even the same day if necessary.

“To alleviate overcrowding in our jails, which is very expensive, and also to help the back log in the SBI lab and to be able not to let people walk for having an illegal substance,” Frazier said.

The Halifax County Sheriff's office was the first department in the country to run the Nar Test machine. Their system was placed there on a free loaner basis. So far, only a few other departments in the state have one, and Frazier is surprised more aren't on board yet.

“I guess they are waiting for it to be challenged in court and go a new route, but somebody has to do it and get it going,” Frazier said.

Halifax County has used it in about 250 cases, and so far, authorities haven't run into any problems in court.

“The majority of them are pleading guilty,” Salmon said. “We haven't had any Not Guilty pleas and nothing has been challenged in court as of yet.”

Sheriff’s officials also send a sample off to be crossed tested through the same methods the SBI uses to test drugs, just in case there is a challenge.

However, Frazier said Nar Test has made a big difference in his department, and he said he hopes the state will help make it easier to bring this technology to others.


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