Local Hospitals To Test Blood in DWI Cases - WSPA.com

Local Hospitals To Test Blood in DWI Cases

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Park Ridge Health one of the first hospitals in western North Carolina to begin testing for blood alcohol levels in DWI cases. Park Ridge Health one of the first hospitals in western North Carolina to begin testing for blood alcohol levels in DWI cases.
HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. -

Lab technicians at Park Ridge Health will not only test blood samples for doctors, but they will also examine sample for police and prosecutors.

Lawmakers passed a bill last year to allow hospitals to test blood alcohol levels in driving while impaired cases.

“Western North Carolina is leading the state in this effort,” said Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin.

The legislation is intended to reduce the backlog at the State Bureau of Investigation laboratory, where Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore says there are not enough analysts to meet the needs of a growing problem.

“The backlog has gotten worse because the 12 analysts that test these types of cases, they cover 100 counties, so if even when you get your item tested and you have the trial or hearing, the defense lawyer frequently wants to see the analyst before they plead guilty."

Any given day, an analyst is wanted in five to 10 counties to testify, according to Moore. In the meantime, no other samples are being examined and the cases continue to pile up.

Moore says a few years ago, it was estimated that 10,000 blood samples were waiting to be tested.

In Buncombe County, there are currently 250 samples at the SBI lab, some of which Moore says have been there for nearly two years.

Some judges will not wait longer than six months for the results to get back and that means the charges against a suspected offender may be dropped.

“Anytime we are having to dismiss for lack of having the evidence returned to us is very frustrating,” said Henderson County District Attorney Greg Newman.

At least a half-dozen DWI cases have been dismissed in Henderson County in the past six months, says Newman.

But officials are hopeful that by adding hospitals to the mix, they will no longer have to wait -- weeks, months and even years for what prosecutors refer to as life-saving evidence.

Park Ridge will soon test blood samples for police and prosecutors in Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania and Polk Counties.

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Emily Pace
Emily is a general assignment reporter covering Buncombe, Polk, Rutherford and Henderson Counties.
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