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Texas crime labs delays cause at least 21 false convictions

Lab work at the Texas Department of Public Safety's 13 labs has suffered a recent slowdown. This surge is caused by a lab tech shortage, as well as recent no-refusal BAC operations, according to a representative for the agency. He also stated that drug test processing times were averaging nine months by the end of 2012.

A report released on April 20 by the Austin American-Statesman shows that 21 or more individuals across the state have served time based upon drug possession charges when the substance they had in their possession turned out not to be illegal. The publication studied court records and conducted interviews with seven women and 14 men who pleaded guilty and started serving their sentences before the test results in their cases were available. Fourteen individuals were exonerated by lab results after being wrongly convicted during the past two years.

According to the report, all of the defendants that were involved in the study had been incarcerated for crimes that they were later cleared of. One such case involved a 31-year-old man who was taken into custody at a Round Rock Wal-Mart in June 2013 because police found a cotton ball soaked with a brown substance that police thought was heroin. He was charged with possession of narcotics, spent two months in jail, entered a guilty plea and received a six month prison sentence. When the TDPS Austin crime lab released the test results proving that he was wrongly accused, it was long after his release from prison.

A felony drug charge canhave a profound effect on anyone's future. A criminal defense attorney could help individuals in this situation by studying the evidence to determine if it was legally acquired and properly processed in a timely manner.

Source: Austin American-Statesman, "Lab delays create Texas' unknown exonerees," Eric Dexheimer, April 19, 2014

Source: My San Antonio, "NEWSReport: Lab delays lead to false drug convictions", April 20, 2014

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