Illinois crime labs: Risking rights of those with felony charge?

Could Illinois crime labs be infringing upon the legal rights of individuals accused of criminal conduct in our state? That is the question that some people may be asking after disclosure of alarming backlogs at the labs. These backlogs delay criminal proceedings and may lead to legal claims that the rights of those who are facing a felony charge or other criminal proceedings could be in jeopardy.

The problem was brought to light by reports that the labs currently have a backlog of over 400 cases that are awaiting toxicology reports. That figure does not even include requests for blood alcohol testing or DNA tests. It was not disclosed how many of those additional crime lab requests are pending. These delays are said to slow down criminal investigations, but they may also interfere with the right of individuals to prepare a meaningful defense to pending allegations.

In addition, it was discovered that there was a crime lab backlog of about 4000 rape kits during 2011. A new Illinois law now requires that crime labs process those kits within six months from the time that the evidence was gathered. The labs have said they intend to be completely caught up by 2015. That assertion may be scant assurance to an individual currently facing criminal accusations and looking to clear their name.

A felony charge is a serious matter in Illinois and elsewhere. When the evidence upon which a felony charge is based requires a report from our state crime labs, the delay in getting the report has the potential to create a logjam in our criminal justice system. Those facing allegations or formal charges may benefit from seeking assistance to ensure that all of their legal rights are fully protected as they seek to confront accusations made against them and achieve the best possible result.

Source: kmov.com, "Criminal investigations delayed due to Illinois crime lab backlogs," Russell Kinsaul, Sept. 27, 2012

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