Poor testing procedures lead to retesting of blood alcohol samples

Minnesota motorists know that blood tests are common for anyone accused of drunk driving or the more serious vehicular homicide. In many situations, a suspect doesn’t have a choice — police will take the suspect’s blood regardless of whether he or she consents. Minneapolis police and prosecutors have long argued that blood tests are an effective way of determining a suspect’s blood alcohol level and, thus, whether he or she was legally intoxicated while driving.

Unfortunately, a blood test is only as good as the lab technician that is performing the test and reporting the results. If he or she makes a mistake or fails to accurately record the results, the lab technician may have given the prosecutor false evidence to convict someone of vehicular homicide or drunk driving. When these mistakes do happen and are discovered, it could mean the difference between freedom and prison for someone wrongly convicted.

This is regrettably what has happened in a toxicology laboratory in Colorado. The state’s Department of Public Health has announced that after an outside test discovered that one of the employee’s test results was incorrectly reported, all of his tests have become suspect. Now, the Department is looking into more than 1,700 blood alcohol samples that the technician supposedly tested, trying to determine how many were inaccurate.

Although this happened outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul, it easily could have happened here. There is nothing preventing a laboratory employee from intentionally or negligently reporting incorrect blood alcohol levels to police and prosecutors, leading to numerous wrongful convictions.


Source: CBS 4 Denver, “Samples From DUI Cases being Re-Tested,” April 20, 2012

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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