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Legal Review: Backlog in Maryland Drug Lab Could be Unfair to Accused Waiting Trial

By Criminal Defense Attorney Kush Arora of Price Benowitz LLP

It is well known that the entire country is suffering from an opioid epidemic. That epidemic is now moving from the streets into many state labs. Many of them are facing severe backlogs, causing investigations to take much longer to complete.

Maryland is one state facing such backlogs. In order to deal with it, they have applied for a grant to the U.S. Justice Department to help them deal with the delays they are currently dealing with.

According to the Maryland State Police, there has been an ‘exponential increase’ in the number of overdoses and crimes that involve heroin and opioids. They are not wrong. In the grant application, the State Police stated that the backlog increased from 111 cases in 2015 to 2,101 in May of 2018.

This backlog is the reason they have applied for a grant that would allow them to bring in outside contractors that can help. These contractors can help state lab forensic scientists get through the backlog more quickly.

“One of the biggest problems with the backlog is that many people currently in custody are waiting for the results of lab testing,” says Kush Arora of Price Benowitz, LLP. “If those tests return nothing to indicate a person should have been in custody, that time was simply wasted. Many believe the backlog works to the defendant’s advantage. For those not free while the investigation is conducted however, it can work against them just as much.”

It is expected that Maryland will receive the grant it needs, and that it will be in the amount of $2.5 million. Not only will this help with the backlog, but it will also go towards preventing them in the future.

Maryland is not the only state dealing with such a backlog. In the past three years, Virginia has also experienced a ten percent increase in drug cases, causing a backlog in forensic labs in that state as well. While it once took just 30 days to complete a standard drug forensic lab review in Virginia, that time has been increased to 134 days.

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