State Lab Ends Drug and Alcohol Testing

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has announced that it will not resume testing of blood samples for drugs and alcohol.  In July, following an investigation into practices at the lab, all blood testing was suspended.  During that time, 800 samples were sent to a different lab to be re-tested.  95% of the re-tests came back within the margin of error.  In addition, while the state lab suspended testing, law enforcement sent blood samples to various private labs for testing.  The state lab has decided not to resume testing, indicating it would cost approximately $700,000 a year to run that part of the lab.  The state lab has stated that the decision not to resume testing has nothing to do with any issues with the lab.

Law enforcement and prosecutors have concerns about the lab’s decision not to resume drug and alcohol testing.  Prosecutors were not consulted prior to the lab making its decision.  Prior to the suspension, approximately 73% of all drug and alcohol testing was completed by the state lab.  Prosecutors are concerned that using private labs will be too costly, which may inhibit their ability to prosecute DUI, vehicular assault and hit and run cases.  From the defense side, defense attorneys are concerned that higher costs associated with private labs will be passed on to the defense.  In addition, there is concern regarding transparency with private labs.  Transparency that is important to ensure that the drug and alcohol testing is being done in a way that makes the test results reliable.

The costs of testing will likely be passed onto the people charged with DUI or DWAI.  Currently, there are some police agencies that request restitution from the defendant to recoup the cost of administering and completing the test.  Those costs are generally for the blood kit used by the agency or the disposable components used to administer a breath test.  Under the law, the prosecution has the right to recoup certain costs as well.  These costs of prosecution include things such as the cost to issue subpoenas to witnesses and travel expenses to bring witnesses to court.