As police across Texas have increasingly turned to blood tests to build their drunken driving cases, the state crime labs charged with analyzing the samples have stayed the same size. The result, finds a joint review by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE News: The labs have become overwhelmed and backlogged, delaying prosecution and forcing defendants to wait months for their cases to be heard. The number of blood samples submitted to Texas Department of Safety labs has increased 500 percent in six years.
The state has added no new lab analyst positions in two years, causing the wait time for results to double in the past year. “It’s just real simple,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. “You’ve got to provide basic state services, and here is a glaring example of our largest police department in the state not having enough resources to do its job.” The wait time — the actual testing only takes a few days once an analyst begins working on a sample — means that potentially dangerous drunk drivers who voluntarily gave a blood sample might get to keep their license and stay on the road until the results come back. It could also keep defendants in jail for longer than they ordinarily would stay, “which results in increased costs to often cash strapped local jurisdictions,” warned the public safety agency in its 2014-15 budget appropriations request.