4 Investigates: Director of state's scientific lab to resign
January 14, 2019 06:24 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The woman in charge of the state’s scientific laboratory will soon be out of her job.
The lab processes DWI kits from law enforcement around the state to determine how much alcohol is in the blood of suspected drunk drivers.
In November, 4 Investigates revealed alarming internal reports from New Mexico's Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD).
They show, in the first quarter of 2016, the lab was able to process 93 percent of the DWI kits it received within 15 days, which is the state’s goal.
Under SLD director Lixia Liu, the percentage dropped over the next two years. It now processes five percent of all DWI kits within the state’s 15-day goal.
In addition, the Santa Fe County sheriff office told us it's waited on scientific evidence for up to nine months and state police reported 8-month delays.
It’s left prosecutors around New Mexico frustrated.
“If we don't have those labs back in 45 days, sometimes we have to dismiss that case,” said John Sugg, Otero County district attorney.
The investigation showed the problem came down to high turnover at SLD and a high number of vacant positions.
At last check, four out of nine positions were vacant in the drug screen section. In the breath alcohol section, three out of three positions were unfilled.
After the 4 Investigates piece aired, Lixia Liu announced her intention to resign as SLD director. However, last week, she amended her resignation letter, saying she would stay on staff until March 8 or when a new director is named. She also stated she would only be available four hours a week, by phone.
Updated: January 14, 2019 06:24 PM
Created: January 14, 2019 03:43 PM
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