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San Diego Sheriff’s Department receives crime lab grant

REGION — The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department received an early Christmas gift – a $517,374 state grant for its regional crime lab to test samples for the presence of drugs and alcohol.

The money will be used to fund two full-time crime lab criminalists specializing in the analysis of biological samples. Their findings will help in prosecuting driving under the influence cases in court. The grant funds will also be used for training the crime lab’s toxicology criminalists.

Besides alcohol, DUI’s can involve prescription medication, marijuana and other drugs. Using new equipment, criminalists can better identify and determine the concentration of drugs and other chemicals in DUI samples.

Of the 1,944 samples tested from October 2022 to September 2023, those arrested had an average blood-alcohol concentration that was more than twice the legal limit of .08%. A total of 55% of arrested drivers had alcohol and at least one additional impairing drug in their systems. Drugs most commonly detected in blood samples were cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl.

The Sheriff’s Crime Lab provides forensic science services to more than 30 law enforcement agencies in San Diego County. It processes more than 6,000 samples in traffic safety cases annually.

The grant program runs through September 2024.

Funding for the grant program was provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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