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State crime lab scales back operations amid coronavirus spread, leading to shelving of drug cases

Published on March 23rd, 2020

By MEGAN CREPEAU and JEREMY GORNER CHICAGO TRIBUNE | MAR 20, 2020 | 2:53 PM

Cook County prosecutors will be dropping all new drug cases as the coronavirus outbreak has led the state crime lab to reduce its operations to only urgent work involving violent crime.

The Illinois State Police laboratory is cutting down drastically on the number of forensic tests it is performing, so routine testing to confirm whether any suspected drugs are, in fact, narcotics, has been put on pause.

As a result, prosecutors have been instructed to dismiss all drug cases that have not yet been indicted or had a preliminary hearing — the early procedural hurdles a case must clear before it can continue to trial — if testing is not complete on those cases, according to documents obtained by the Tribune.

Without proper testing on narcotics, prosecutors do not have a “good faith” basis to proceed with charges, officials said. Cases that are dropped will be reevaluated after the lab begins testing again, to determine if they are eligible to be indicted by a grand jury.

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