The Law Offices of John Phebus

Arizona Supreme Court hearing DUI evidence case

Eleven drivers are linked together in a case currently before the Arizona Supreme Court. Each one was pulled over by police officers and arrested for DUI. Each one had a blood sample taken and then sent to the Scottsdale Crime Laboratory for testing. The question before the state's high court is "whether the methods or actions by the Crime Lab in its daily operations are sufficiently reliable" to comply with Arizona Rules of Evidence.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge decided that the equipment used by the lab did not provide trustworthy results and that the evidence produced (blood test results) is not admissible at trial, according to court documents.

 

There were multiple problems with the testing equipment used: the blood analyzer sometimes misnumbered vials, it dropped data, it shut itself off in the middle of testing, it sometimes did not properly identify to whom the tested blood belonged, it sometimes assigned incorrect names to vials of blood, and so on. According to court documents, a software engineer told the court that in his opinion, the test equipment should have been removed from the lab and that its results were scientifically invalid.

Though the blood analyzer repeatedly malfunctioned, it was never taken out of service and the problems with it were not fixed. Lab employees would simply rerun tests when problems arose.

In an email, a Scottsdale Crime Lab criminalist wrote to a colleague working with similar test equipment that they shared concerns about the reliability of the blood analyzer: "Let’s work on resolving the issue quickly so you don’t have to face defense attorney’s challenges in Court related to our malfunctioning instrument."

Criminalists understand that experienced DUI defense attorneys know how to analyze test results, know how to hold the state accountable for errors in testing or police procedure, and know how to defend clients at trial.

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