$4.5M into new Federal Way crime lab to crack down on massive test backlog

Washington State officials hope a new $4.5 million dollar lab facility in Federal Way will cut down on the massive backlog of families who are waiting for crime test results.

According to Washington State Patrol, there is a backlog of 14,000 toxicology tests needing results. These tests are for DUI cases, death investigations and drug-involved crimes, like sexual assaults.

"This is a first line of defense of using science to be fair to everybody, including citizens and suspects, to make sure that we get the truth about this potential criminal conduct," said Governor Jay Inslee.

The results do more than help to convict criminals. 

In Ja. 2022, a father of two was accused of driving under the influence in an incident outside Fall City.

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He was driving with his wife and two kids, when their car went into the Snoqualmie River.

Law enforcement arrested the driver at the time for suspicion of driving under the influence, and reports labeled him a DUI suspect.

However, months later, test results showed the father was not under the influence. 

"We were dragging way behind, upwards of a year, in our ability to return results," said Chief John Batiste with Washington State Patrol.

Officials with WSP say 17,000 lab requests have been filed so far in 2023. That is a 13% increase in comparison to last year’s requests. 

Wait times for the families relying on these results are at nearly a year.

However, state officials are hopeful a new toxicology lab in Federal Way will help cut down those wait times by about 75%.

The $4.5 million lab is already operating, but state officials say by the time it is fully staffed, test results could take as little as 60–90 days.

"Those who have been victimized by the actions of an irresponsible person, it brings about accountability that family wants to see happen, and it brings about closure," said Batiste.

It will take 12–18 months for staff to fully be trained, which means results will not be seen immediately.