For those of you who have had enough trying to decipher the legal and scientific nuances, but are interested in following what is going on in the Scottsdale Crime lab, here is the Cliff’s Notes version of the events, and reasons why this drama is so important.
In essence, our story begins when the Scottsdale Crime Lab moved to its current location. The Lab bought two new blood testing machines, that cost 6 figures each. During the credentialing of these machines, a problem happened. It seems, but hasn’t been conclusively proven, that some software from an old machine was loaded into one of the new machines. As you can imagine, this caused problems from the outset. Besides the fact that the old software was out of date with newer advances in technology and science, the software was also incompatible with the new machines and as a result, eroded other parts of the newer technology in the new machine. Clearly, this is an unacceptable machine to be using in criminal cases.
When multiple people’s blood alcohol concentrations are tested on these machines at the same time, it is essential that the machine be able to collect the data, analyze it, and then store it all properly. This can help ensure that the correct reading is made and that the reading is assigned to the right person. After all, what good is a machine that gives inaccurate results, or shockingly, even reports one person’s results as another’s? The most terrifying thing in this ordeal is that there have been just these types of documented problems with the machines, yet these machines were continued to be used by the Lab. Additionally, because the only reason we know about these problems is that the Defense community has caught the Lab red-handed, one of the real concerns is about the problems that we have been unable to catch. Since the defense is given little information from the State regarding these machines, we are truly worried that there may be numerous other problem areas out there that we have not been put on notice about.
The most recent event that has happened in the various court proceedings regarding the Scottsdale Crime Lab is a called a Daubert hearing. Typically, a Daubert hearing is held when one side is challenging the “scientific” nature of some piece of evidence, and arguing that the results are not well accepted nor approved by the scientific community, and as a result should not be allowed in trial for a jury to even consider. A Superior Court Judge agreed with the Defense Community that there are problems in the Scottsdale Crime Lab that deserve to be addressed at a Daubert hearing, where the State will have to prove that the Lab is actually using reliable, scientific, methods. As of the posting of this blog, the closing written arguments still have not been submitted to the Court, but we expect a ruling later this summer.
You might be wondering how this issue affects you. If you are charged with a felony DUI (otherwise called an Aggravated DUI), you should contact an attorney who knows their DUI laws immediately. If you are charged with a misdemeanor DUI, the above mentioned proceedings in Superior Court do not directly affect your case because a Superior Court Judge’s ruling is not binding on a City Court Judge (where almost all misdemeanor DUI’s cases are held). However, there are ways that a skilled DUI attorney can use these proceedings to our advantage in plea negotiations and at trial.
I assure you that everyone in the courthouse is going to be watching the outcome of these proceedings with bated breath, as the ultimate decision could influence not only cases in the future, but many past cases as well. If you were convicted of, or pled guilty to a DUI in Scottsdale since 2009, you should contact my office. We are coming up with a plan to try to help you and are currently ironing out the details.