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Harris County probation office produces error-ridden drug testing

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There is sometimes nothing more life-altering than the serious potential consequences which accompany drug charges. Not only do prison sentences and large fines often follow a conviction, but future damage to reputation and other sentence requirements like probation threaten to make life difficult for an individual. According to recent news, the Harris County probation office has gone above and beyond by making the probation experience for convicted persons not only an inconvenient experience, but a severely unjust one.

Following a court hearing that occurred in August, it became clear that the Harris County probation office produced error-ridden drug testing results in its course of business.

Some judges have gone so far as to shun all lab results stemming from the office. According to one lawyer who put the agency on trial, errors in testing occurred from the moment an individual stepped inside of the office to the moment the results were uploaded to the computer system.

Some of the errors allegedly include botched test results, where flawed files were left uncorrected for weeks. Samples sat in refrigerators for months before being tested. A lack of competently trained staff potentially played a part in the problem.

Additionally, in order for samples to be usable in court, there must be an accountable chain of custody for each step in the process. Yet, evidence has showed that locations where samples were kept remained unlocked for long periods of time. Further, some staff may have made assumptions about test results without ever seeing the actual data.

The director of the office and two of its lieutenants have since resigned. However, the resignation of some employees does not mean a solution has been found. For those individuals impacted by these errors and potentially false positive tests, vigorous criminal defense is vital.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Flaws have long plagued Harris probation agency," September 12, 2012

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