FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2015
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AUSTIN, TX - Today, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee passed SB 1287, authored by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, to require forensic analysts to be licensed in Texas before they can practice or testify in court. Senate Bill 1287 would make Texas a national leader in forensic science by developing the state's own licensing program to ensure forensic analysts are held to the highest standards. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
"Senate Bill 1287 would continue the state's reforms to ensure our forensic analysts are highly trained to do their important work in investigating crimes," said Senator Hinojosa. "The testimony of forensic analysts is often a deciding factor in criminal cases, so it is critical that we establish minimum standards for their work in Texas."
Texas law currently requires crime laboratories that practice certain forensic disciplines to be accredited by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) before testimony from lab employees is admissible in criminal cases. But the DPS accreditation only concerns standards for the laboratory, not the analysts. Analysts who engage in misconduct or make regular mistakes only face discipline within their laboratory, but there is no mechanism to prevent those analysts from moving to other labs in the state. In addition, there is currently no requirement in Texas that forensic analysts be certified or licensed to practice or testify.
SB 1287 would amend this gap in the law by requiring the Forensic Science Commission to establish a process for licensing forensic analysts and require forensic analysts to obtain licensing by January 1, 2019, to continue practicing. Hinojosa said the standards developed in Texas could serve as a model for other states.
Hinojosa was an original author of the 2005 legislation that created the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which investigates professional negligence or misconduct that affects the integrity of the results of forensic analysis conducted by accredited laboratories.