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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Lab backlog delays DUI cases

There is a significant backlog of DUI cases in Washington due to thousands of requests for blood tests for drivers accused of using drugs before driving. In 2017, the state toxicology lab, run by the Washington State Patrol, handled 15,945 cases. This figure signifies an increase of 9 percent over 2016. The number of such cases has grown by 45 percent in the previous five years.

The laboratory tests blood samples taken in DUI cases as well as handle the testing following autopsies as requested by medical examiners and coroners. While the number of cases has risen dramatically, the number of employees at the facility has not. This means that cases are delayed as testing time increases. In 2017, the median time to receive results from the lab was 45 days, and it was only 20 days in 2016.

While the lab is seeing more death investigations, the largest number of samples leading to the backlog at the lab is generally attributed to an increasing number of DUI blood tests following the legalization of marijuana in the state. Breathalyzer tests used to detect the presence of alcohol cannot be used to test for marijuana or other drugs. The number of DUI cases related to drunk driving in Washington has fallen in the past several years, but more cases have been attributed to driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

If someone is convicted of drunk driving or other DUI charges in Washington, he or she can face severe penalties, which can include costly fines and even jail time. A criminal defense attorney can help people who have been arrested for DUI challenge the evidence presented by the police and present a strong defense before and during the trial.

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