Marijuana Cases Affected by Changes to DOH Labs Procedures

As reported by Amanda Milkovits in the January 19, 2012 edition of the Providence Journal, the Rhode Island State Department of Health Laboratories are suffering from a serious backlog of evidence and cases. Due to decreases in budgets and an increase in evidence to be processed, it takes the lab roughly six (6) months to one (1) year to process violent crimes and it can be up to two (2) years to process evidence from non-violent crimes. A new bill, currently in the General Assembly, would increase the workload of the laboratory even further. Under current Rhode Island law, the laboratory processes DNA samples from people accused of certain crimes and submits the samples to a federal database. The proposed bill, would require taking DNA samples from every person arrested for a violent crime.

Due to the backlogs, the lab wants to limit the amount of evidence that is submitted in certain types of cases. The proposed charges would limit the police to five (5) pieces of evidence in sexual assault cases and homicides. Additional pieces of evidence could be accepted if approval is granted. Another proposal involves misdemeanor drug possession cases, such as marijuana, in which the lab would only accept evidence if the case was scheduled for trial.

There is a meeting at the end of January to discuss these proposed changes, which are scheduled to take effect on January 30, 2012. This backlog can serious impact the ability of the State to prosecute drug possession cases like marijuana.

If you or a family member has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, like cocaine, possession of marijuana or other drug related charges, please allow Attorney Robert H. Humphrey's reputation, experience and skill to successfully guide you through the legal process. Contact Robert H. Humphrey at 401-816-5862 or e-mail him at

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