Changes with DPS crime lab upsetting East Texas DAs, law enforcement

Changes with DPS crime lab upsetting East Texas DAs, law enforcement

EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - The Texas Department of Public Safety announced four days ago they will no longer pay for forensic services across the state.

DPS said they will put a price tag on services and charge law enforcement agencies for certain crime lab reports to adjust to state enacted cutbacks.

On Monday, two East Texas prosecutors and a sheriff spoke out against the surprising changes brought upon by the agency.

Angelina County District Attorney Joe Martin said these changes will have a tremendously bad impact on the county.

"We already have juries expecting us to have DNA on everything because they see it on TV," Martin said. "[When] they don't have DNA and this going to get more difficult and have some cases we don't do those lab results or lab tests."

In addition, the changes affects law enforcement agencies at county and local level on September 1.

Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches said he finds this short notice a major burden.

"We're not budgeted for something like this. The problem is that you get a lot of evidence, and you got to send it off, and it's going to cost," Sanches said.

In a press release, DPS Director Steven McCraw explained how the state legislature had given the agency instruction to collect up to $11.5 million in forensic fees to cover a sizable budget cut made to agency's funding. Cutbacks also have a major impact on rural counties.

Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon said this news should also concern taxpayers who are seeking a justice system to act in a fair and professional manor.

"If there are corners being cut along the way for budgetary reasons or disparities from county to county in terms of the quality of the investigation and the prosecution because of the budgetary limitations between those counties, that's not a good situation to be in. It's certainly not fair," Hon said.

Beginning in September, local law enforcement agencies will be required to pay $75 for alcohol and controlled substance analysis, $150 to quantify how much of a substance there is , $150 dollars for a toxicology analysis and $550 for a DNA analysis.

Copyright 2017 KTRE. All rights reserved.