Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $676,804)
The West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory (WVSPFL) operates as West Virginia’s official crime laboratory. The WVSPFL’s Biology Unit is responsible for analyzing forensic biology/DNA cases for all law enforcement agencies (local, county, state and federal) within West Virginia free of charge. The West Virginia State Code Chapter 15, Section 2B designates the WVSPFL as the agency responsible for the testing and upload of DNA profiles obtained from individuals convicted of certain crimes in the state to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
The West Virginia State Police has limited discretionary funds to address the needs of ten forensic disciplines/sections within the laboratory. Therefore, funding through the CEBR program will enable the WVSPFL to fulfill mandated continuing education requirements for DNA scientists as well as maintain the capabilities of the laboratory by funding certain calibration and validation services and equipment needs. As a byproduct, the limited State Police budget can be used to address the needs of the remaining disciplines of the laboratory.
The WV Legislature enacted HB 4476 on May 18, 2020. WV State Code Chapter 15 Section 9B states that upon collection, a sexual assault forensic examination kit shall be submitted for testing by the health care provider to the WVSPFL within 30 days of collection or as soon thereafter as practicable. This direct submission legislation has increased the number of sexual assault forensic examination kits submitted to the WVSPFL annually by 72%.
Due to the sexual assault direct submission legislation, the Biology Unit continues to experience bottlenecks with the analysis and technical review of forensic biology/DNA cases. The funding through the CEBR program will enable the WVSPFL to continue the employment of three forensic scientists in the Biology Unit to work backlogged forensic biology/DNA cases as well as continue the contract with a former employee to assist with technical reviews. These measures will help combat the various bottlenecks within the laboratory and as a byproduct, decrease the backlog and turnaround time of forensic biology/DNA cases.