Saturday, February 9, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Hundreds of drug cases have been dropped or dismissed in Baltimore courts since last fall because results were not available from the police crime lab, prosecutors say.

The problem has led to the loss of what otherwise would be solid cases because it affects the foundation of every drug prosecution tests that determine whether suspected drugs are actually illegal narcotics.

“This has never been a problem before,” Judge Keith E. Matthews, the district court’s administrative jurist, told the Baltimore Sun newspaper. “It’s reaching crisis proportions. I’m hearing about it from every judge that is sitting in criminal court.”

The problem became clear when the number of drug arrests increased last year.

The cases are primarily misdemeanors, though there are some felonies.

Since August, police have analyzed suspected drugs from more than 15,000 cases. The exact number dropped or postponed since then as a result of missing analyses is not clear, but prosecutors say it is probably more than 1,000.

“It’s at least 1,000 cases, maybe 1,500,” said Laura Mullally, chief of the district court division of the State’s Attorney’s Office. “These are perfectly good cases.”

Last week, 12 cases were dropped, including a felony, because test results were unavailable. Prosecutors were granted postponements in nine.

Police and prosecutors do not agree on the cause.

Prosecutors say police are not getting suspected drugs analyzed in time for court.

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