El Paso District Attorney asking for new chemist in crime lab to reduce DWI backlog
EL PASO, Texas —
Facing a backlog of DWI cases, El Paso County leaders are discussing hiring a new chemist to test blood work.
District Attorney Jaime Esparza said the new position would be part of an agreement with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
"What's happening now is we have to wait at least six months, sometimes longer, for a result of what was in the blood. Was the person intoxicated? And that's just way too long for us to process cases," said Esparza.
Esparza said because El Paso is a no-refusal county, there are lot of cases waiting to be tested.
He told county commissioners on Monday it's put a strain on the court, and the chemist could address the load.
Some El Paso County judges are feeling this burden in their courtrooms.
"We got to be moving these cases instead of having 600 to maybe 700 cases just sitting there,” Judge Robert Anchondo, County Criminal Court No. 2, said. “And we think that it's just going to escalate."
County commissioners agreed with the need but had questions with the budget. A new chemist to analyze these blood draws comes with a two-year price tag of nearly $160,000. Some people say this hire is something El Paso needs.
"As long as they can stop people from drinking and driving, then yeah, any measure that the court takes it's towards safer roads,” Marco Buendia said.
"It's something they need to crack down on, and any way you can make it more accurate and more time-efficient, it's a good plan,” Ryan Hingst said.
"For the community, I think it'd be safer, because the process is faster to be able to get these cases done,” Maria Murguria said.
Commissioners plan to take it up again Dec. 21. But Esparza said this backlog can be costly in more ways than one.
"Right now we are in limbo. We can't move forward because we don't know what the blood result is and the case just sits there,” Esparza said. “The longer the case sits there, there's an expense to the person and an expense to the criminal justice system.”