Backlog of Drug Cases in Allegheny County Due to Lab Testing Delay
March 20, 2017
The prescription drug epidemic is wreaking havoc on law enforcement efforts in Western Pennsylvania. For instance, Allegheny County authorities are struggling to process evidence in drug cases because the country’s crime lab has been overwhelmed as police officers seize more and more controlled dangerous substances.
The reality is that Pittsburgh PA police, and other police departments in Western PA, are arresting more and more people for illegal possession of prescription drugs. This has created a backlog of drug cases in the Allegheny County crime lab.
Although the Allegheny County crime lab can potentially expedite the processing of evidence when prosecutors file a formal request, the problem is that the large number of people being arrested for prescription drug possession and prescription drug distribution means that the lab could struggle to meet the demands of expedited requests.
The Case of Dangelo Hayes: Arrested for Drug Possession in Pittsburgh, PA
One example of the difficulties faced by Allegheny County law enforcement is the case of Dangelo Hayes. In July 2016, a police SWAT team executed a search warrant at Hayes’ residence in the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar area of Pittsburgh, conducted a search of the premises, and reportedly discovered large quantities of marijuana and heroin, as well as scales for weighing drugs and more than $12K in cash believed to be proceeds of illegal drug sales.
Prosecutors initially filed numerous drug charges against Hayes, but they had to release Hayes from jail and drop the charges because the Allegheny County crime lab could not process the evidence in time for a preliminary hearing.
By the time the crime lab finally processed the evidence and confirmed that the seized substances were illegal drugs, Hayes was long gone – possibly having left the area. PA prosecutors refiled the criminal charges against Hayes, but they are currently unable to proceed with the case because police officers cannot locate the suspect.
Although this sort of situation may not be common, it has been known to happen from time to time. According to data from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, law enforcement submitted more than 5,300 cases to the county crime lab in 2016. However, fewer than 3,700 of the cases had their evidence tested by the lab – creating a backlog of approximately 1,600 cases with evidence that still needs to be tested. Moreover, some of these cases could have very little chance of being resolved in time for necessary court dates because the crime lab prioritizes certain cases – and places far less importance on other cases.
If you have been arrested and charged with marijuana possession, illegal prescription drug possession, or any other drug offense in Pennsylvania, you need a skilled, aggressive criminal defense attorney representing you throughout the legal process. The experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of James Crosby will help you fight your drug crime charges and avoid the most severe penalties. Contact us anytime to schedule a consultation.