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State lab faces backlog of DUI blood tests

Washington State is facing a backlog of laboratory testing for DUI cases, especially those related to alleged drug use before driving. Thousands of requests have been made for the blood testing of samples collected from accused drivers. This surge is reflected in the numbers. In 2017, the state toxicology lab handled 15,945 cases, which is a 9 percent increase over the previous year. However, this was not a one-year increase but part of an ongoing trend as the number of cases presented to the lab has increased 45 percent since 2012.

The laboratory, directed by the Washington State Patrol, provides blood testing on samples from DUI cases. While the number of cases handled by the lab has risen greatly, the number of scientists has remained static. There currently are 18 employees in the lab, which is the same number as it was in 2012. This has caused cases to be pushed back as the time needed for testing grows. While it took 20 days to receive lab results in 2016, it took approximately 46 days to receive the same results in 2017.

In general, the primary contributor to the increased demand on the lab is a growing number of requests for blood tests in DUI cases, especially after Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use. In traditional drunk driving cases, breath tests are used to detect the presence and volume of alcohol, but similar noninvasive tests are not available for marijuana or other drugs.

The number of DUI drug cases has increased in Washington even as the number of drunk driving cases has fallen. These kinds of charges can carry significant penalties, especially if it's not a person's first offense. People convicted of drunk driving or DUI can face serious fines, loss of their drivers' licenses or even jail time. For individuals accused of DUI of any kind, a criminal defense attorney can provide strong representation in negotiations and during trial.

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