Moratorium issued on all Harris County Probation Department drug tests
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos Tuesday called for a moratorium on any use of drug test results from the Harris Co. Probation Department. This order is the latest fallout from a hearing investigating testing errors that sent innocent people to jail.
At the Harris Co. Probation Department, there was still a line of probationers waiting for urine drug tests though Judge Denise Collins says she's not going to rely on any of the results.
"Any drug testing that's done by the Probation Department is unreliable, period, end of story," Judge Collins told Eyewitness News.
This comes one day after a dramatic ending to a hearing in her court where defense attorney Lisa aAndrews systematically laid out evidence that showed the Probation Department urinalysis testing had at least 30 false positives.
We tried to talk to the man in charge, Paul Becker, Tuesday, but the Probation Department would only read a statement through its intercom, saying "HCCSCD (Harris Co. Community Supervision & Corrections Department) appreciates your inquiry. However, please be advised that HCCSCD is not at liberty to grant interviews."
DA Pat Lykos announced she is placing a moratorium on the using the tests, saying in a statement, "I have directed all prosecutors with the District Attorney's office to refrain from utilizing Probation Department urinalysis test results for any purpose. This moratorium will remain in effect until I am assured of the accuracy of the department's test results."
Judge Michael McSpadden says he wishes the Probation Department had told judges they were overwhelmed with the testing
"When you're overwhelmed, what you do is go to the judges is say don't make the requirements in every single case, we are overwhelmed. We never heard that," Judge McSpadden said.
Even with Tuesday's moratorium, the biggest problem for Judge Collins is that there is no way to tell how many probationers were wrongly sent to jail.
"And I don't think we have any idea, and we never will, how many people have been impacted by this. There's no way to measure it," said Judge Collins.
The fallout is far from over as the DA's office is asking defense attorneys to bring any concerns to the DA.
Although the DA's office cannot comment on any pending investigations, a lot of courtroom observers expect the Public Integrity Division to look into this situation to see if any laws were broken.
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