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North Carolina takes steps to speed up criminal system

| Jan 12, 2018 | Criminal Defense |

North Carolina, like many other states, has more evidence of criminal wrongdoing than they can handle.

There’s so much evidence, in fact, that the state has had to previously dismiss charges that ranged from drunk driving all the way to murder because the state couldn’t meet its obligation to review the forensic evidence in time to give the defendants a speedy trial.

That may be changing — which is good news for everyone involved. Innocent defendants, for example, won’t have to wait around indefinitely in holding cells or on house arrest while their DNA evidence slowly inches through the system.

Currently, North Carolina’s main lab — and the only one able to evaluate DNA evidence — is located in Raleigh.

That can take a detective from some parts of the state around 10 hours to reach. Then, if the analyst who handled the DNA needs to testify at trial, he or she must traverse the same distance back to the local courthouse. Given the amount of court time and road time analysts have to cover, that cuts deeply into the time they have to actually examine evidence that keeps backing up.

On average, it took seven months or longer to get evidence tested — whether it was a homicide or a drunk driving case.

Now, the state is adding 20 new analysts and a lab in Edneyville to try to cut the backlog down to no more than three months.

In particular, this move may help solve future crimes like rape. Rape kits became so backlogged that many ended up destroyed over time. This could leave serial rapists on the loose while others who were falsely accused never receive closure and continue to live under an unfair cloud of suspicion.

Criminal defense attorneys are also likely to welcome the change — especially when they have defendants who are languishing in jail while waiting for evidence that could free them to be processed.

Source: www.newsobserver.com, “These new state hires could help cut down North Carolina’s rape kit backlog,” Will Doran, Dec. 09, 2017

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