In North Carolina a blood draw related to a DWI charge can create a lengthy delay for the case going to trial. While a lab related to a blood draw may only take hours to be analyzed at a hospital, the NC State Crime Lab might take months or even years to analyze a vile of blood draw as a result of a DWI arrest.

Lab Delays and the Right to a Speedy Trial

Some lab results may take several years to be processed and returned by the SBI Lab. This begs the question, is such a delay an infringement on a Defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial? In North Carolina the short answer is no. It is very difficult to establish a violation of a persons right to a speedy trial based on delays by the State crime lab.

Factors for Determining a Speedy Trial Violation

 

“In determining whether a defendant has been deprived of his right to a speedy trial…our courts consider four interrelated factors together with such other circumstances as may be relevant.” State v. Chaplin, 122 N.C. App. 659 (1996) (quoting State v. Groves, 324 N.C. 360, 365 (1989); Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 533 (1972)). Those factors are:

  1. the length of the delay;
  2. the reason for the delay;
  3. the defendant’s assertion of his right to a speedy trial; and
  4. prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay.

Id. (collectively, “the Barker Factors”).

The second of these factors, the reason for the delay, questions whether the State or the Defendant is responsible for the delay. Although it might seem like common sense to assume that a delay by the State to obtain the results of a lab that a state actor, a police officer, requested and submitted for testing, and sent to a second state actor, a NC lab analyst, would be clearly a delay on the State, the courts have found that this is not a delay caused by the prosecutor or DA and therefore generally not attributable as a delay to the State.

If you have a case involving a blood draw that is sent to the NC crime lab for investigation, you can probably expect lengthly delays before the results will be returned and before a trial on your case can occur.

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