CA crime lab backed up six months on DNA testing

New laws expanding DNA sampling are causing huge backlogs across the state. Rather than helping law enforcement, the loads may be interfering with investigations.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

It takes some six months to get DNA results in California because the crime labs are so backlogged, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

``This is an issue where people are remaining in custody who shouldn't be, and people who should be in custody are out on the streets,'' said Gerald Uelmen, a Santa Clara University law professor and the Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice's executive director.

The state crime lab has a backlog of 158,546 samples taken from felons. The backlog is due to a 2004 law that required DNA sampling from all convicts. The picture is brighter at some other crime labs. In Santa Clara County, the turnaround is just 60 days. But Oakland's lab, run by the police department, was only able to analyze a third of samples taken in 2005.

``Most laboratories are not adequately staffed to provide timely information on investigative-level cases,'' according to Thomas Nasser, director of Orange County's crime lab and president of a statewide organization for crime lab chiefs.

The situation, created by Proposition 69 on the 2004 ballot, which sought to improve DNA matching by requiring sampling whenever someone is convicted of a felony, or arrested on suspicion of or charged with homicide or sexual assault.

It will get even worse in 2009, when samples must be taken from everyone who is arrested on suspicion of or charged with any felony.

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