KXXV Central Texas News Now

Crime lab to start charging law enforcement for forensic tests

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)

On Sept. 1, the Department of Public Safety Crime State Lab will start charging local law enforcement agencies for forensic analysis performed on controlled substances, toxicology, DNA evidence submissions and alcohol analysis.

According to the Department of Public Safety, the Texas Legislature gave the DPS lab system $63 million for next fiscal year but its authorized budget is $74.5 million. Therefore, it asked the agency to collect $11.5 million in forensic fees to make up the difference.

Several Central Texas Police departments learned about the change last week and are evaluating the impact it would have on their overall budget.

Waco Police Department Spokesman Sgt. Patrick Swanton said at this time, it is looking at the amount of evidence they sent to the lab at no cost. This would help come up with the estimated costs.

“We are going to have to look at number one where do we get the money from because it's not something funded. It wasn't something we expected,” Swanton said.

Swanton added the forensic analysis helps them present cases for prosecution and much more.

"I know we have solved burglaries based on just finding blood samples at the scene or finding a cigarette butt that was thrown down at a sexual assault scene so those things are imperative for us to solve cases,” Swanton said.

The change could mean the police department would prioritize the evidence it sends.

"We may send less evidence. We may send no evidence in particular cases. We just don't know at this point. It's all up in the air. We have to figure out a plan and come up with it quick,” Swanton said.

He added they will get input from the community on the type of evidence the department they should send.

At this time, the department is looking at whether the funding would come from the police department’s budget or from the city. Currently, the City of Waco is close to adopting its budget so the next fiscal year.

Woodway Public Safety has also already presented its budget proposals to the city of Woodway.

"Shock, surprise. The state has to get passing this unfunded mandates to us. Particularly we are done with our budgets,” Zakhary said. “We are in the final stages of presenting our budgets, approving our budgets with our city council and her we have another unfunded mandate.” 

Zakhary anticipates the cost for the forensic tests would be between $10,000 and $15,000, which would have to come from other areas of the police department’s budget.

"If we have to, we will find the funds to process the scenes. The last thing I wanted to be is the city to be known that won't send a piece of evidence because they can't afford it. Some cities may not be able to. Hopefully, we are able to find the funds through other changes, other cuts,” Zakhary said.

Hewitt Police anticipates an impact on the department’s budget. According to Chief James Devlin, last year’s evidence would have had a cost of $14,200. He added the department plans to budget additional funds.

Temple Police told News Channel 25, the department is still looking at how it will impact its budget.

DPS will give vouchers for the crime lab but the specifics of the program have not been released.

Zakhary said he wants to talk to different police chiefs about reaching out to lawmakers to see if the issue could be revisited and departments can be given one year to prepare.

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