New lab to crack down on drunk drivers opens in Pitt County

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Pitt County is now one step closer to keeping drunk drivers off the roads, thanks to a new blood alcohol concentration lab opening Monday.

The new lab means techs can test blood alcohol concentration levels at the Pitt County Detention Center. In the past, they had to be shipped to the state forensics lab, which is notoriously backlogged, delaying DWI cases.

Until now, trials for those charged with DWI in Pitt County often took years. That meant many DWI cases were either continued or dismissed.

Sheriff Neil Elks says this new lab will cut wait time for results down from a couple years to a couple hours. Quicker results means getting people in front of a judge faster, which the sheriff’s office says will keep repeat DWI offenders off the road.

Rachel Janson is one of 2 forensic chemists working in the new lab. She says she can fully process samples for about 4 people in a day.

“To do one sample takes about 15 minutes. But because of all the special quality control samples that we have to run with it to verify that we’re getting accurate readings, it will take a whole day to process one run to incorporate even just one case,” Janson said.

Janson says eastern North Carolina’s only BAC lab is good news for residents.

“Just for proximity. These views cut down on time for analysis so they can process the cases a lot faster than waiting for it to come back from the crime lab,” Janson said.

The sheriff’s office is also exploring the possibility of starting a toxicology lab in the same room, which would test for drugs in blood samples.

The grant-funded lab has been in the works for 2 years.

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