At least one person has announced their resignation and evidence from the Harris County probation department has stopped being court-worthy in the aftermath of flawed drug tests. According to the Houston Chronicle, the agency, tasked with the supervision of local probationers, parolees, and those out on bail, is set to be investigated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
The department’s issues came to light in what was supposed to have been a typical probation-revocation hearing.
A DWI probationer who was one month away from completing probation was jailed when his drug test came back positive. The problem? The test was wrong. According to the Chronicle, more than 30 negative tests were changed to positives “because of a clerical error with no oversight.”
The defense attorney in the probation revocation case used this particular case to bring the problems to light—using departmental emails to document the issues and subpoenaing employees of the department to testify.
Ultimately, State District Judge Denise Collins issued a moratorium on the department’s drug testing in her court. She also called on the director and three top deputies to resign. A few days later, executive director Paul Becker announced his resignation.
The Harris County District Attorney’s office has since stopped admitting drug tests from the probation department into evidence.
The Dept. of Criminal Justice will be looking at the policies and procedures surrounding drug testing and recording. They will interview staff, pull files, and try to determine just how serious the problem is.
But, even if it’s only found that 30 cases were affected—30 is too many.
When you are talking about a drug test that could land someone back in prison—that could take them from working and abiding by the terms of their probation to languishing behind bars—it’s very serious.
Drug evidence— whether it’s drug testing for probationers or chemical evaluations of suspected drugs by drug lab chemists— is a science not a subjective guessing game. If you are accused of a drug offense, you need someone on your side who understands this and who is interested in ensuring proper protocol is used at every stage of the criminal process, even those stages that you aren’t present for.
Our system of justice replies on the trust and validity of the institutions that are responsible for criminal justice. Anything less is absolutely unacceptable, and Unconstitutional. In Massachusetts, an entire crime lab was shut down and thousands of cases are at risk due to the incompetence of a single lab technician.
Contact our offices today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help. Even if you are accused of violating probation and risk losing your freedom, you have rights.