Wisconsin crime labs processed DNA test results faster in 2022

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has released its annual crime lab performance report, which found DNA test results were processed considerably faster in 2022 despite receiving hundreds more cases.

Associated Press

August 17, 2023

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Two plastic vials filled with liquid and with their tops screwed shut stand in a plastic tray.

Two vials are used in a testing process at the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratories on April 18, 2019. On Aug. 17, 2023, the state Department of Justice released a report detailing the pace of DNA analysis at the labs in 2022. (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

AP News

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Justice Department’s crime labs processed DNA test results faster in 2022 despite receiving hundreds more cases, according a report released on Aug. 17.

The department’s annual crime lab performance report shows the labs received 4,347 cases involving DNA analysis in 2022. The labs completed the analysis in 3,715 cases, with testing taking an average of 84 days.

That’s an improvement over 2021. The labs took on 3,612 cases that year and completed testing in 3,526 in an average of 128 days per case. In 2020 the labs took in 3,820 cases involving DNA analysis and completed testing in 3,144, taking an average of 79 days per case to complete their work.

Justice Department officials said in a statement that the faster turnaround times in 2022 stem from analysts working through evidence submissions that accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turnaround times for toxicology testing, which determines blood-alcohol content in drunken drivers and the presence of drugs in a person’s system, slowed dramatically, however. For the first time in three years, the labs failed to finish work on more cases than it took on during the calendar year and average turnaround times nearly doubled.

According to the report, the labs took on 3,855 cases in 2022 and finished 2,439. The average turnaround time was 84 days per case. That compares with 2021, when the labs took on 4,073 cases and finished 4,078 cases in an average of 48 days per case. In 2020 the labs took on 3,972 cases and finished work on 3,829 in an average of 39 days per case.

Justice Department officials said they’ve purchased new instruments for the toxicology section to help detect synthetic drugs.

Like crime labs across the rest of the country, Wisconsin’s facilities have struggled with slow turnaround times for years. Experts say local police and prosecutors are sending more evidence to labs for analysis as they work to build airtight criminal cases.

Justice Department officials said they need more analysts. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ 2023-25 state budget called for spending $154,800 to hire four more forensic analysts and $547,000 to hire four more DNA analysts. Republican legislators scaled the spending back to $123,600 to cover three forensic analyst positions and deleted the request for more DNA analysts.

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