Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jan 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.


Backlog At State Crime Lab Hampering Prosecution of Drugged Driving Cases

The drunken driver has been replaced by the "drugged" driver as the biggest 
menace on area highways, area law enforcement officers say. Flatwoods 
Police Chief Buddy Gallion said more than half of the town's DUI arrests 
now involve drugs instead of alcohol.

However, securing a conviction for driving while under the influence of 
drugs is much more difficult than one for driving after consuming too much 
alcohol. While a Breathalyzer test - routine in drunken-driving arrests - 
will determine the blood-alcohol level of an intoxicated driver within 
minutes, it will not determine the level of drugs in a driver's body. That 
requires a blood test, which must be sent to the state crime lab for analysis.

The crime lab currently has a backlog of nine months, and with the state in 
the midst of a revenue crisis, don't expect the wait to be shortened by 
hiring more people. The 2002 General Assembly did approve the hiring of 25 
additional lab technicians, but only 11 were hired before a hiring freeze 
was imposed because of the revenue shortfall.

Clay County Attorney Clay Bishop Jr. said that more than a few drug-related 
DUIs have been dismissed because of delayed test results. State court 
officials have recommended that DUI cases be processed within 60 to 90 
days. "We try to leave it on the docket for as long as possible, but after 
nine or 10 months, if a defense attorney is worth anything, he'll move to 
dismiss," Bishop added.

It may be possible for local police to find an independent source for 
analyzing blood samples or to hire their own analysts, but such moves will 
require money most local governments do not have, especially in rural 
Eastern Kentucky where the "drugged" driving problem seems to be most severe.

Clearly, this is a problem that this region needs to aggressively attack - 
and waiting nine months or longer for drug test results only adds to the 
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