MACON — So many drugs are being sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's crime lab for analysis that its staff can't keep up with the workload, authorities said.
For the past year, the lab has faced a growing backlog, The Telegraph reported. That's slowed down the testing process, and its effects are widespread.
If prosecutors don't have the evidence they need to pursue a drug-related case in a timely manner, both drug dealers and drug abusers can get out on bond and return to the streets, the newspaper reported.
Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke says that his office often has to wait seven to eight months to get back test results from the crime lab.
In some cases, it has taken over a year.
"That erodes confidence in the system," Cooke said. "And this is, in many ways, directly attributable to the backlog."
The crime lab received 33,099 chemistry requests for drug tests in fiscal 2018, according to the GBI. Only 26,283 tests — or 79 percent — were performed during that time. At the end of the fiscal year, June 30, the lab's backlog of drug test requests over 30 days old grew to 17,285, since the lab started the year already behind.
If the crime lab were to focus exclusively on the backlog, it would take the state's seven crime labs eight months to eliminate, said Nelly Miles, GBI's director of the office of public affairs.
The crime labs receive more requests for drug analysis than the current trained staff can complete, an issue that she said is exacerbated by priority requests from district attorneys that disrupt the normal case flow, Miles said.
The dearth of resources for the crime labs has been a topic of conversation among district attorneys across Georgia who are worried about the implications of the backlog, Cooke said.
"This is a serious bottleneck," he said.