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Crime labs may face new state rules

  • July 27, 2012 - 10:46 PM

State Sen. Ron Latz said Friday that he intends to sponsor legislation during next year's legislative session that would mandate the accreditation of crime labs in light of the St. Paul police lab's questionable work.

Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said he also was motivated by Gov. Mark Dayton's statements supporting such legislation.

"The situation with the St. Paul crime lab has highlighted the importance of setting transparent standards and giving a set of standards one can measure accountability by," said Latz, the ranking DFLer on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Public defenders Lauri Traub and Christine Funk are challenging the St. Paul lab's results in eight drug cases in Dakota County District Court. Lab staff testified that a number of basic scientific standards were not being followed.

The state has about 20 unaccredited crime labs and five accredited labs. Labs lack outside oversight unless they choose to be accredited, a time-consuming and expensive process.

State law formed the Forensic Laboratory Advisory Board in 2006, a volunteer panel that has unsuccessfully lobbied lawmakers for funding so it can take on a stronger regulatory role. Latz said he is open to the board's needs.

Latz said it's too early to discuss specifics, and noted that there may be exceptions or considerations for small labs. Latz is seeking re-election this fall.

CHAO XIONG

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