News 07.14.09

Shrinking State Budgets and Crime Labs

As states face budget shortfalls this year, crime labs across the country are feeling the pinch. Cutbacks in lab budgets can lead to layoffs and longer backlogs for DNA testing and other forensic work, and it can compromise case investigations. In some cases, critical forensic testing could be skipped in a case because there aren’t funds to conduct the tests.

The California legislature has proposed cutting the state’s crime lab budget in half, and the Daily Breeze newspaper recently said this will lead to "

a less safe state

.” The state crime lab may start charging local agencies to conduct forensic tests on evidence collected from crime scenes, and if those agencies don’t have the money for the tests they might not get done.

Federal funds will soon help the Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office address backlogs of untested rape kits that compromise public safety – and could potentially lead to overturning wrongful convictions. The Pasadena Star-News wrote this week that money spent on addressing crime lab backlogs is a “

wise investment

.”

Medical examiners offices around the country are cutting back on autopsy schedules due to budget shortfalls and some critics say

the cuts could hamper investigations

.

A new law in Mississippi requires that evidence from some crimes be stored, and

some local law enforcement agencies are saying they don’t have the capacity to store crime scene evidence

and comply with the law. Evidence preservation is vital to overturning wrongful convictions – and locating the real perpetrators of crimes.

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