Law enforcement

Texas DPS to Begin Charging for Forensic Lab Services

The Texas Department of Public Safety will soon begin charging law enforcement agencies who use its crime labs for forensic testing.

Many details remain unknown, but the impact is expected to be far-reaching and could require police departments across the state to dig deep into their own pockets.

Until now, the crime labs have been free for local law enforcement agencies. But in a letter dated July 20 and sent to those agencies, DPS says that will no longer be the case.

Numerous police departments rely on the forensic labs to solve cases, including the Plano Police Department.

"We don't have our own laboratory, so we have to send our case work to DPS or other laboratories that charge money," said Dr. Rick Staub, who oversees evidence for Plano police.

A letter to law enforcement agencies, including the Plano Police Department, outlines what the new fees will be.

An alcohol analysis is priced at $75. A toxicology test will cost $150. And the charge for DNA analysis is now $550.

"We rely on them quite heavily," Staub said.

He estimates the department sends 80 to 90 percent of its DNA cases to DPS crime labs.

He says he sends about 200 DNA cases to the DPS crime lab each year, which would add up to $110,000 in extra fees for the department per year, just for DNA cases.

Coincidentally, the department recently acquired a device to save money on DNA testing.

It's called the "Para DNA," and it detects if a piece of evidence has DNA on it in the first place — something it would have to pay DPS to do, even if the result is negative.

Regardless of any extra fees police now face, Staub says victims and the public can rest assured, it will not result in crimes going unsolved.

"We wouldn't let that happen. We just wouldn't let it happen," he said.

The Plano Police Department has a fund for testing case work, but Staub says it is only a finite amount of money.

DPS says it will provide cities with vouchers to help offset some of the fees, although they haven't said how much. It's in the process of finalizing the new fees.

Altogether, DPS is trying to collect $11.5 million to make up for state cuts.

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