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2009-10 Budget Analysis Series: Judicial and Criminal Justice

Require State and Local Agencies To Pay for Laboratory Services

The DOJ’s Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) operates 11 full–service criminalistic laboratories throughout the state. These laboratories provide some state and many local agencies with analysis of various types of physical evidence and controlled substances, as well as analysis of materials found at crime scenes. Although existing law permits the department to charge fees for such services, they are generally provided at no charge and instead funded from the General Fund. The Governor’s budget proposes that about $51 million in General Fund support be provided to BFS in 2009–10, including $43 million for laboratory operations.

As we discussed most recently in our Analysis of the 2008–09 Budget Bill (see page D–62), by requiring BFS to charge state and local law enforcement agencies lab fees, the Legislature could reduce General Fund support for BFS due to (1) the creation of new revenue and (2) a reduction that is likely to result in the number of cases processed by the labs. For example, requiring the payment of laboratory fees would provide an incentive for law enforcement agencies to ration their use of state laboratory services by sending only high–priority cases to the state or by using other available entities (such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement agencies in nearby jurisdictions) to assist with testing.

In view of the above, we continue to recommend that the Legislature reduce General Fund support for DOJ by requiring that BFS charge state and local agencies for the forensic services they provide. Because developing physical evidence through laboratory analysis is part of local law enforcement responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes, we believe that the costs for these particular services should be borne by the counties and cities. Upon full implementation of our proposal, the state could realize savings of as much as $43 million annually, depending on the level of adjustments made to the budgets of other state agencies to account for fees they would pay BFS for laboratory services. We also recommend that any resulting fee structure be designed to effectively capture laboratory costs while still accommodating small agencies dealing with expensive and complex investigations.



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