Over the last few months, there has been a lot of news about recent issues related to blood samples and DUI testing. Specifically, samples have been compromised and have caused innocent people to be convicted of DUI and face a long list of associated penalties.
While the main story came out of Los Angeles, the problem is widespread and issues related to inaccurate blood samples have been a concern of defense lawyers and their clients for years.
In November of last year, a story was released regarding a Los Angeles crime lab that had been continually finding errors with its blood-alcohol testing. It announced that it will be conducting a state audit in order to properly review both its procedures and standards.
The report stated that there were approximately 2,200 DUI cases filed by prosecutors in the state because of this faulty reporting. This specific crime lab attributed the mistakes to “human error.” This human error went undetected for five months. After the errors had been discovered, over 900 people were notified that their cases may have been one of the ones affected.
In this case, as well as others, there is usually an issue with how the machines used to test the blood samples are maintained. Meaning, in order for a machine run properly, it must be calibrated on a regular basis. In the case of the LA crime lab, one of the machines was off by .003 percentage points. Although, this is a small number, it led to many unfair convictions.
Right around the same time that the LA crime lab announced its mistakes, a crime lab in Scottsdale, Arizona announced that a malfunctioning blood machine had tested thousands of samples before the problem was noticed and corrected.
It is so important that these machines are taken care of and looked at regularly. Generally, a crime lab will test the same blood sample twice, using different machines. Once the machines have produced a result, the average of the two readings will be calculated. Therefore, if one of the machines is malfunctioning, there is no way that the result will be accurate.
Unfortunately, the issues recently publicized in Scottsdale and LA are not all that unique! However, many times, these kinds of things are just covered up in order to save face. It's not surprising, really, when you think about the high expectations city officials and law enforcement put on crime labs and other technicians to produce desirable results. Do technicians just tell prosecutors what they want to hear?
It's no secret that the more arrests and convictions, the better the city looks. Cities and counties get a lot of money from the government to “go after drunk drivers.” With this funding, the city better produce results! As a DUI/DWI defense attorney, I have seen far too many examples of how this can cloud an officer's judgment. Unjust arrests are made on a regular basis. It's important to be aware of your rights and speak with an attorney as soon as possible if you get arrested for DUI/DWI.