VALDOSTA — Time and money will be saved now that the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory is certified to test blood alcohol content for suspects charged with driving under the influence.

Becky Parker-Hall, crime lab director, said this is a big deal for the city, county and surrounding communities that will be able to utilize the lab for testing. She said the team at the lab are extremely excited when the lab became certified at the beginning of July.

"This has been a goal since the lab was established in 2010," she said. "We're excited that we are finally able to provide this to the City of Valdosta. It took a lot of work from everybody who works here to get it done."

Parker-Hall said the first thing the lab had to do was become accredited in blood-alcohol analysis. After it received that accreditation in March, the lab applied for state certification through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. 

Overall, the process took about 18 months and will mean blood testing can be done locally instead of being sent to the GBI.

The blood-alcohol analysis process happens after a person is pulled over by a law-enforcement officer for suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol. The lab is only certified to test blood-alcohol content and not other types of drugs. 

Once law enforcement has the suspect's blood taken for samples, the blood is put through a series of tests at the lab to determine the concentration of the alcohol in the system, Parker-Hall said.

Valdosta Police Chief Leslie Manahan said the community needs this testing for a quicker turn around for DUI cases.

"Prosecution is fast and this is going to speed it up," Manahan said.

In the past, the Valdosta Police Department has been forced to wait months for the GBI to get results. With the Valdosta-Lowndes lab able to handle the testing, results will be available after a couple of weeks.

She said not sending the blood to Atlanta and doing the process in-house will save the department money, too.

"Having the ability in our community to process evidence for any type of cases saves everybody in the long run," Manahan said. "It definitely outweighs any costs."

Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256

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