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DPS "No analysis" reports

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December 04, 2003, 15:54
Tim Cole
DPS "No analysis" reports
Have begun to receive a lot of drug reports back from DPS labs where the lab personnel are deciding, without asking us, that we don't really need some of the exhibits that were submitted. After testing some items and finding dope, they are apparently deciding that the remaining items are cumulative or unimportant. I just had one where they tested the dope and found it to be state jail felony meth, and then didn't test the anhydrous ammonia found next to it. Obvious problem -- we have a state jail felony we can prove and a second degree felony that we can't prove because they deemed it unnecessary to our case. They will go ahead and test upon request but if the stuff has already been taken back to the agency it's going to have to be resubmitted. Just wondering if any one else has come across this problem and what ya'll think about it. I have sent a letter to Ron Urbanovsky explaining the problem and requesting that I be consulted before any decision is made not to test my evidence. Their explanation, of course, is backlogs and lack of resources. I understand that this is a problem and I sympathize (who doesn't have the same problems) but if we go to trial in one of these cases we have dope we can't introduce at trial unless it's sent back to the lab. Seems like a simple solution would be to call and ask before they make this call.
December 05, 2003, 08:56
I have noticed a reduction in automatic testing of items sent in, particularly DNA. The answer, of course, has to do with resources. There aren't enough lab technicians to test everything (contrary to the stories on CSI). In addition, even within a case that will be tested, there are usually many choices to make as to what will be tested.

If you have a case that is likely to go to trial, you definitely should set up a meeting with DPS technicians. Go visit them. Talk to them about your case. Explain why you need certain things tested. Don't assume they will do every test requested. It is not possible.

I have found the Austin DPS lab, for example, to be very appreciative of this type of visit. I learn a lot about my case. They don't waste time testing things unnecessarily.
December 05, 2003, 09:29
Tim Cole
I agree with you, John, if we are talking about numerous items of evidence sent for DNA analysis in a big case. There's always more there than can be tested and the decisions about what to test can be made down the road. But the problem here is not in those kinds of cases. It's the every day dope case where the evidence is tested long before we know whether the case will go to trial, usually before we even receive the case file. We are talking here about actual drugs. Are you telling me that you don't want all the drugs tested in a dope case? I don't understand why a prosecutor would want to limit the evidence available at trial that way. My answer was to ask the lab to call me before they decide which items not to test. There's no good answer to this because I don't have time to call them on every case and they don't have time to call the prosecutor in every case. So I guess the answer would be, at least in dope cases, to test what is submitted.
December 05, 2003, 09:53
In meth lab cases, that can mean a lot of material. How many bottles of liquid and powders, etc., need to be tested to plead out a meth lab?

For standard drugs (bag with cocaine, tin of marihuana, etc.), I agree that the testing should (and must) be done without any meetings. You can't indict without such a test (as Dallas found out last year).
December 05, 2003, 13:34
Tim Cole
All our law enforcement agencies are pouring the liquid substances seized at meth labs into containers to be taken to the lab. Usually there are no more than 5 or 6 items. I agree that this is all academic if you know the case is going to plead. But tell me how you know that in most cases at the point that the substances are sent for analysis. We usually don't even have a case filed with us at that point. And, again, my problem isn't in deciding that some items don't require testing, it's that the decision is being made for me by someone who knows nothing about the case.
December 07, 2003, 20:52
Laurie K. English
I had a case a couple of years ago where the lab refused to test a large quantity of steroids. I called the lab and we discussed the fact that their arbitrary testing was dictating my ability to prosecute the drug cases. The reason he initially gave for not testing the steroids: "they're messy." When the steroids were resubmitted, the defendants plead to first degree felonies and paid hefty fines ($7K-$10K each).

When the amounts are small and I have ample evidence with the submissions that were tested, I don't mind the lack of testing too much.

I sympathize with the lack of manpower, but we all have a job to do and if it is "too messy" a person should look for other work.
December 14, 2003, 22:15
Hey, apparently you can get immediate DNA testing if you are hunting international criminals. For the speed of DNA testing for Saddam, check out the article.

I wonder if that lab was certified by DPS?

[This message was edited by John Bradley on 12-15-03 at .]