Accreditation of local crime labs

For those of you who have been tracking the provision in the Forensic Sciences Act of 2011 that requires local crime labs to become accredited, a bill has been introduced to extend the time for local crime labs to become accredited to July 1, 2020. Below are links to the relevant legislation:

Forensic Sciences Act – Signed into law by Governor Beverly Perdue on March 31, 2011. Sections 1-5 and 7-11 are effective when the act became law. Section 6 (Ombudsman position) is effective on July 1, 2011.

  • Session Law 2011-307 – Section 9 of this law extends the time for local forensic science labs (other than the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory) to become accredited to October 1, 2012.
  • Session Law 2012-168 – Section 6 of this law extends the time for local forensic science labs (other than the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory) to become accredited from October 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013. Section 6.1 clarifies which State Crime Laboratory employees are required to become certified.
  • Senate Bill 200 – this bill extends the time for local forensic science labs (other than the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory) to become accredited from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2020. Introduced March 5, 2013.

Lab accreditation is important because it requires labs to have and follow a set of written procedures. Accredited labs must have quality assurance procedures in place and a plan for addressing problems that may arise in a lab, including contamination, unexpected results, or analyst failure to comply with the written procedures. Though problems can still occur in an accredited lab, accreditation is an important step in ensuring valid results.

North Carolina is not the only state working to ensure that all forensic laboratories become accredited. This article describes a bill in Minnesota that would require all forensic laboratories to become accredited in the wake of a major lab scandal related to drug analysis in the unaccredited St. Paul police crime lab. Minnesota legislators are considering requiring that labs apply for accreditation by a certain deadline and complete the accreditation process by a later deadline. This change would address the backlog of labs waiting to be inspected and accredited by the limited number of accrediting bodies.

More information about the lab accreditation and analyst certification process is available in this 3-part series on accreditation and certification:

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Filed under Crime Labs, Legislation

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