When the police find drugs on someone, they can’t just use their experience and best judgment to push charges. While this might be good enough for an initial arrest, the prosecutor is going to want hard evidence—namely, lab test results confirming the substance as a drug. But in St. Louis County, there is a long wait for such test results, causing charges and treatment to be delayed.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, drug cases are met with a 6-8 month delay in the lab. The county lab is located in Clayton and services every police department in the county, a few federal agencies, and the Major Case Squad. It’s a lot of work for one lab and the amount of work has only grown over recent years.
In 2009, the St. Louis lab tested 716 drug cases. This year, so far, they’ve analyzed 2,989 cases. That is an alarming jump, and the year isn’t even close to being over.
So what’s to blame with the influx of cases. Well, part of it is increased drug use, according to law enforcement. Police are also cracking down more. Also, the lab has lost staff, making it more difficult for them to keep up.
The County is looking to get more lab scientists on staff. Right now they have 17 and they’ve asked for five more. But, it would take about 18 months to train any new workers, which would make the backlog even worse.
In the meantime, they’ve asked prosecutors to only order tests on cases they plan to prosecute. Previously, every suspected drug confiscated by local law enforcement would come through the lab—despite prosecutors not pursuing charges in 40% of them. This is an obvious waste of time and resources.
They are also considering field test kits for police. Lab tests would still be needed, but a field test would be enough probable cause to go forward with charges while they wait for confirmation from the lab. This would allow defendants to get into treatment or discuss a plea bargain in the meantime, rather than be held in limbo while out on bond.
Criminal drug charges are frustrating, especially when you are forced to play the waiting game. You want to handle your charges and get on with your life. Unfortunately, you are sometimes at the mercy of the courts.
If you’ve been charged with heroin possession, distribution, or even possession of marijuana, you need the help of a local defense lawyer. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.