The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) did not get much media brouhaha over a recent change in its operating procedures, but something has changed in the way that DPS does things that will impact many, many Texans (and others) who are charged with misdemeanors involving blood alcohol or drug testing.
In the past, the DPS Crime Laboratories would take and test any blood alcohol and drug evidence that was submitted to it, regardless of whether or not the stuff was being used to convict someone for a misdemeanor or a felony.
In a letter dated August 6, 2012, Pat Johnson, the Deputy Assistant Director, LES Division of the Crime Laboratory Service for the Texas Department of Public Safety sent out a notice to all of DPS’s “law enforcement partners,” explaining that as of September 1, 2012, the thirteen (13) DPS Laboratories:
“…would like to prioritize our analysis on controlled substance evidence likely to be categorized as a felony offense. There is no change from the current manner of submission on felony cases. For controlled substance evidence likely to be categorized as a misdemeanor offense – possession of Marihuana under four ounces, synthetic cannabinoid materials (K-2, Spice, etc) under four ounces, identifiable dangerous drugs, etc – the crime laboratories would like to receive and analyze this evidence only when the prosecutor needs a laboratory report to prosecute the case. Law enforcement agencies are requested to hold these misdemeanor cases and submit them to the laboratory only when such a request is made by the prosecutor.”
DPS Crime Labs Overwhelmed So They Are Nixing Misdemeanor Evidence Testing Unless Prosecutor Specifically Requests It
What DPS has done is try and get a handle on the overload of demand for testing that it has been facing, in what DPS claims is a temporary fix to deal with a huge bottleneck in the Crime Labs’ workload. According to a story that did appear in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, DPS had a 500 percent (500%) jump in requests for BAC (blood alcohol content) testing over the past six years and there’s been a big jump in requests for testing drug evidence over the years as the newer, synthetic marijuana products have grown in popularity.
DPS has drawn its line in the sand between felony cases and misdemeanor ones.
What are these synthetic marijuana products?
Around 18 months ago, Texas passed a law that made synthetic cannabis illegal (other states like Florida have also done this). Last year, the Texas Department of State Health Services specifically placed five (5) synthetic cannabinoid substances in Schedule I of the Texas Schedules of Controlled Substances, including K2, Salvia, and Spice, making it illegal to manufacture, distribute, possess and sell these substances. Texas law sets the penalties for the manufacture, sale or possession of these synthetics, or fake marijuana, as Class A or B misdemeanors.
That doesn’t mean that they are not still being used in Dallas and elsewhere around the world. After all, it is still sold online – there are even websites dedicated specifically to the sale of Spice, etc., as “herbal incense.” Synthetic marijuana isn’t the real thing, i.e., the marijuana plant, but instead it is an alternative made of herbs that are sprayed with chemicals to be used in lieu of the real thing. It goes by various names like K2, JWH-018, JWH-250, Black Mamba, Bliss, Blaze, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Genie, Moon Rocks, Salvia, Skunk, Spice, Yucatan Fire, and Zohai.