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Why You Can't Believe Drug And Alcohol Test Results In A DUI Case

Some people who get arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol undoubtedly knew they'd had a few too many drinks before they got behind the wheel but decided to gamble they'd get home before they got caught. Others end up shocked that they're being arrested because they were certain that the one glass of wine or beer that they had with dinner wouldn't have put them over the legal limit. They're even more shocked when test results back the officer up. As it turns out, they may have good reason to be surprised -- more and more evidence is showing that the nation's crime labs are in disarray.

Is that DUI breath testing machine actually working right?

That's a fair question in any DUI case because DUI breathalyzers have to be precisely calibrated and well-maintained in order to give a proper reading. The questionable nature of the quality of a given machine can often form a DUI defense. 

But it turns out that a number of people may have even bigger reasons to question the results they see right before their eyes: the machines may never have been tested before they were put into service. A former electronics technician from the Colorado Department of Health has admitted that his signature was forged on as many as 150 of the machines put into service. Untrained civilians did the false "certifications" and merely put his signature on the equipment so that it looked like they had been properly tested. 

This is just one of a number of major scandals across the nation in the last few years that show exactly how unscientific the test results being used to convict some drivers can be.

Is that lab test even remotely accurate?

Defense attorneys have a great deal of reason to question the results they're seeing from labs these days, especially if a defendant insists that he or she wasn't actually impaired. For example, a lab technician in North Texas has thrown thousands of convictions into question after it was determined he'd given conflicting testimony in at least one case and submitted a report that said a woman who hadn't been drinking had a blood alcohol content level that was twice the legal limit. He's put his credibility at issue in other cases by denying the error.

That isn't even remotely the worst thing to come out a crime lab in recent years. Illinois state crime labs have been under investigation and there are indications that shoddy lab procedures go back as far as 2003. Problems include switched vials, mislabeled specimens, improper calibration of tests, and destroyed samples. They never even bothered to validate their methods of testing to see if they were accurate. In New Jersey and Massachusetts, "dry labbing" was apparently a common practice, which involves a lab tech certifying test results that match the arresting officer's statement without bothering to actually run the tests on the blood or urine samples to see if the defendant was, indeed, intoxicated. In Oregon, a lab tech was accused of tampering with more than 500 samples.

More than ever, these sort of scandals show that it is important to have your defense attorney challenge the veracity of any lab report that you believe is in error. Even if your state isn't one that has a public scandal surrounding testing methods -- yet. For more information, speak to a DUI attorney from a firm such as The Gentry Firm.