Leon County's Sheriff and Jefferson County's Sheriff were at the Capital Wednesday to speak out against counties having to foot the bill for the service of having lab work done at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
A posse of sheriffs combed the halls of the Florida capitol Wednesday. On their "Most Wanted" list is a single line in the budget that could cost them thousands of dollars, and they claim, put Floridians at greater risk for crime.
Usually when Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell and Jefferson County Sheriff Ken Fortune come knocking -- there's trouble. And they say there is: line 1148 in the house budget plan. It would force counties to pick up at least part of the tab for lab services at FDLE.
"At a crime scene we have to ask: do we have enough money for fingerprints? Do we have enough money for ballistics testing? Do we have enough money for DNA? It's like going to the grocery store," said Sheriff Campbell.
In Leon County – the change could cost $423,000 a year – and smaller counties are in an even bigger pinch. Jefferson County - whose entire crime fighting budget is one million bucks - would have to come up with another $85,000.
"In Jefferson County, we would probably have enough to submit for cases like murders and rapes, but burglaries, drugs and other stuff," sid Sheriff Fortune.
By requiring counties to pick up part of the tab for FDLE lab work, the state could save $16.2 million. A significant savings in a tight budget year. But police say the savings will come at a high price.
"We're putting detectives, even prosecutors in the position of picking and choosing which evidence to submit. And I don't think that's what our system of justice is based on," said Campbell.
House Majority Leader Marco Rubio says given the poor economic times, the state cannot afford to subsidize these lab costs anymore. He points out - there is $2.3 million in the budget to help smaller counties deal with the new fees.