Criminal defense attorneys are well aware that some DUI cases can be won by challenging the results of chemical tests that record blood alcohol content (BAC). In fact, many in the non-legal field have heard tales of breathalyzer devices that record inaccurate readings for one reason or another, most commonly as a result of inadequate maintenance or calibration or improper test administration by law enforcement officers. Although blood tests are not infallible either, the general public tends to view them as being more accurate than breathalyzer devices used by officers in the field - perhaps because there is an element of "science" involved.
As first reported by the Los Angeles Times late last year, however, it was a combination of technological error and human oversight that became the most problematic source of doubt in Orange County DUI cases.
- In November, it was discovered that the Orange County Crime Lab was producing incorrect blood test results.
- Inaccurate BAC levels were caused by errors in the forensic analysis of blood samples.
Here's what else is known:
- The error impacted one of the two machines from which readings were averaged to produce a final calculation of blood alcohol content.
- The error went undetected for nearly five months. During this time, blood samples in 2,200 cases were analyzed.
- A total of 900 criminal convictions were based on the compromised BAC readings.
- An estimated 20 people may actually have had BAC limits below the legal limit of .08%, but were still charged with DUI.
Ultimately, the margin of error was not all that large - only .003 percent. For drivers who were just slightly above the legal BAC limit, as well as for drivers whose elevated BAC limit impacted their sentencing and punishment, however, the small margin of error had a significant impact.
A Proven OC DUI Lawyer on Your Side
Officials are speculating as to precisely which cases may have been affected, but the bottom line is that the error has cast doubt on the justice system and the ways in which law enforcement agencies use chemical tests as one of the primary pieces of evidence in DUI cases.
As officials and accused individuals affected by the crime lab errors sort out the legal ramifications of these mistakes, residents throughout Orange County should take note of what this story means. Most significantly, it serves to highlight the fact that law enforcement agencies make mistakes and that chemical tests are not free from error. Individuals accused of DUI, therefore, should never resign themselves to simply pleading guilty without having an experienced attorney review their case and defense options.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with DUI in Fullerton or anywhere throughout Orange County, place your trust in Orange County DUI Attorney Jacqueline Goodman. Call (714) 266-3945 for a FREE consultation.