City County Bureau of Identification vs. the State Bureau of Investigation

In criminal case in Wake County a jury might hear from agents from at least two state agencies (in addition to other local or national law enforcement agencies). Those two agencies are called the City-County Bureau of Identification (CCBI) and the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).

Both organizations were created in 1937 by the North Carolina General Assembly. The State Bureau of investigation (SBI) is sort of like a state version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) although more limited in scope. The SBI, administratively under the North Carolina Department of Justice, has both field agents who conduct investigations and can make arrests, and a crime lab.

In recent years, the crime lab has come under intense scrutiny after it was reveled that a number of agents had either mischaracterized results or failed to disclose negative results that led to the conviction of people who were otherwise innocent.

(At least one of those people wrongfully convicted – Greg Taylor – on the basis of SBI agents’ misconduct has decided to sue those agents.)

In response to the misconduct by SBI agents, a panel was established to provide recommendations to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to lead to the improvement of SBI practices and procedures. The Ombudsman released a report designed to provide guidance to the Attorney General with respect to improvements.

The State Bureau of Investigation has published various manuals and procedures for each of the areas that the crime lab performs analysis.

The City-County Bureau of Identification is a different organization, focused solely on Wake County. It provides crime scene assistance to agencies throughout the county, and is housed in the Public Safety Center (also known as the Wake County Jail) on Salisbury Street.

Its field agents go to scenes, collect evidence, and either turn it over to the police agency (Raleigh Police Department, Cary Police Department, and so forth) or send it off to the State Bureau of Investigation for further analysis. Occasionally its evidence is analyzed by other CCBI agents – for instance, computer data may be analyzed by CCBI agents or fingerprint analysis might be completed in-house at the CCBI rather than be sent off to the SBI or FBI for further analysis.)

In addition, until recently, most DWI investigations involved a CCBI agent who operated the Intox EC/IR II device – the breathalyzer – that is used to take breath samples from suspected drunk drivers and spit out a number such as a .08 that can be used at court.

Now, most Intox EC/IR II device operators are the police officers themselves who now have certificates.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.