The Utah Criminalistics Laboratory System has come under scrutiny in recent months.
The Central Crime Laboratory, located in Salt Lake City, and its satellite laboratories in Ogden and Cedar City handle all kinds of analysis. All three locations, however, are having backlogs problems causing frustration with both prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Regrettably, Utah’s crime lab analysts are overworked. Budget cuts have reduced crime lab funding by almost 30 percent over a two-year period. Together with an increasing caseload, lab work is taking a long time to complete.
According to one lab director, fifteen to twenty new cases come in every week, and with limited staff, it is not possible to catch up. As a result, a DNA analysis that should take only three weeks to complete may stretch out much longer. In crimes that are not high-priority violent felonies, it now takes an average of 80 days to complete the needed lab tests.
While all the work eventually gets done, prosecutors and defenders alike are frustrated by the delays. Defendants have a constitutional right to a speedy trial and if an accused person cannot afford to post bail, long delays in processing evidence lead to a protracted period waiting in jail for a trial. In one case, the wait was eight months for the lab to analyze a weapon used in an aggravated assault.
Salt Lake City Utah defendants whose rights are compromised by a long wait to process evidence may even feel compelled to plea bargain and accept responsibility for crimes they did not commit, in order to get out of jail sooner.
In circumstances like these, persons accused of crimes need the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A capable defense attorney can ensure that their rights are preserved and protected.