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Faulty state-owned lab could create blood test backlog

Faulty state-owned lab could create blood-test backlog

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Law enforcement cracked down on drivers under the influence over the holiday weekend. However, it will be a slow commute for those cases into the courtroom.

Defense attorney's offices and law enforcement agencies around the state were forced to start sending blood tests for alcohol, marijuana and other drugs to a private lab instead of the state lab.  The move follows an investigation showing major problems in the state's labs.

Defense attorneys worry the move will stall cases in the court system.

Joshua McDowell is a criminal defense lawyer in Colorado Springs. 

"Typically what we are looking for is a two- to three-week turnaround for blood-tests," said McDowell. He estimated now the wait time could increase to five or even eight weeks.

"There are going to be a lot of tests with fewer testers so I think that is going to be some of the issues that could possibly create a backlog," he said.

Agencies around the state made the switch after an investigation showed the state-owned lab had major flaws.

It was operated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. A former employee claimed the lab's supervisor was biased against defendants in criminal trials. He said blood and urine samples where left in unlocked containers and therefore, were easily accessible to unauthorized personnel. 

The employee also claimed the blood alcohol training protocols for toxicology lab analysts were inadequate. He also said the workload was too much for the lab.

Investigators found all those claims to be true.

"There's credibility issues; let's move to a place that has less credibility issues," said McDowell.

McDowell said the private labs might need to hire more staff to accommodate the new demand.

Chematox is one of the private labs that will handle blood tests. It said it saw a huge influx in blood tests Monday. It said it's difficult to gauge how many more blood tests they will be running due to the holiday weekend.

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