As SQ Attorneys has previous noted in blog posts, the Washington State Toxicology Lab has had some issues with onsite contamination over the past several years. The lab does blood testing for the entire State of Washington. The lab’s work is relied upon by prosecutors in the processing of their DUI cases and other drug related crimes. It goes without saying that the criminal justice system relies on the sanctity and quality of the lab’s results. Trust in the testing process is of paramount importance.
That trust, however, has been jeopardized due to methamphetamine and cocaine contamination being found in the toxicology lab. Defense attorneys across the state unanimously agree that the contamination may potentially impact thousands upon thousands of criminal cases, minor and major alike.
To their credit – and as required by case law – prosecutors disclosed the information about the lab to the defense bar through letters and emails. However, there was a long delay in their doing so because lab administrators neglected to notify the prosecutors themselves about the issue in a timely fashion. The lab’s brass, in fact, waited for more than a year after the contamination was identified to notify prosecutors. Lab officials now claim they have addressed the issue, and that no blood evidence was compromised by the contamination. That, of course, is debatable.
Problems at the lab began in 2018, and arose after the lab took over space that was formerly used by the State Patrol’s crime lab. Unbeknown to lab officials, the crime lab had used the space to cook meth for training purposes. After finding nine false positive methamphetamine tests over an eight-month period, the lab left the space and hired a contractor to clean up any contamination. According to court testimony by then-acting toxicology lab manager, Dr. Brianna Peterson, the lab identified the issue, took corrective action and disclosed what had happened to its accreditation board. Once prosecutors found out, thereafter, is when the criminal defense bar was notified of the issue. There is no telling how many cases were resolved, in one fashion or another, over the course of the year plus time frame.
Unfortunately, the reality is that a recent sampling of the toxicology lab shows that the problem, in fact, hasn’t gone away, as claimed by lab administrators. Residual levels of cocaine and methamphetamine were found at several sites, and two false methamphetamine results were reported this calendar year.
All said, a recent Seattle Times editorial hit the nail on the head when it suggested that in order to ensure the fair and honest pursuit of justice, and to instill a sense of trust in the lab’s work, lab administrators should be open to an independent review. Such a review would clear up any doubt that resides in the minds of the public regarding the lab’s test results. An in-house self-audit, at this point, is simply not sufficient. We at SQ Attorneys agree with that sentiment. There needs to be an independent audit of the State’s Toxicology Lab.
If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge (drug related, or otherwise), don’t hesitate to hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyer. The Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal attorneys that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested or criminally charged all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether you are cited with an infraction or arrested and/or charged with misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or a felony, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900.