The filing of motions on legal issues is part of the art of “lawyering.” In the DUI arena, most motions are intended to either suppress (i.e., keep out) evidence for various constitutional violations, or to dismiss the case in its entirety due to lack of evidence, procedural error, bad-faith prosecution, or hundreds of other reasons. All of these motions, and the numerous other types that are filed on a daily basis, ultimately are used as a tool to both protect and enforce our clients’ rights.
Usually, a victory on one of these motions is a victory for an individual person; their particular case will be dismissed, or their blood results will be suppressed. However, every once in a while, there is a motion filed by a defense counsel, and granted by a Judge, that has effects far beyond that of any individual defendant. A few days ago, such a decision was handed down by Judge Bernstein at the Maricopa County Superior Court. After 5 months of writing and arguing legal issues, and 17 full days of testimony, the Judge made a ruling that has sent ripples through the entire legal community. In 11 felony cases (that were consolidated into one large case because the issue was exactly the same in all of the defendants’ cases), the Judge suppressed the results of the blood testing done in the Scottsdale Crime Lab. While this has not resulted in a dismissal of the cases automatically, without the blood results the prosecution’s case is obliterated, and a dismissal of the DUI charges is almost a certainty.
While a ruling in favor of a defendant resulting in the practical dismissal of a DUI case is always seen as a somewhat unexpected victory, what is most astonishing about Judge Bernstein’s ruling are the reasons behind it. The Judge did not suppress the blood because constitutional rights were violated, or because of some procedural loophole, or because of any lack of evidence, he did it because the Scottsdale Crime Lab personnel were found to be deceptive and dishonest in their testimony to the Court while under oath. During the course of the hearing, it was brought to light what many criminal defense lawyers had suspected for a long time: that the Scottsdale Crime Lab was using broken machinery to obtain DUI convictions. Previously, Scottsdale City Court Judges had not allowed suppression of the blood results based off of these defects in the testing procedures, but instead required that these problems be explained by criminal defense attorneys to a jury who would determine their merit and veracity. What made Judge Bernstein take the exceptional steps of suppressing the results instead of just affirming the Scottsdale City Court Judges’ passive paths, was the callous dishonesty by the employees of the Scottsdale Crime Lab to the Court and to the defense community. Ultimately, the Judge decided that the combination of the problems with the machinery and the lies told under oath by State representatives regarding the severity of these problems, produced blood results so unreliable that they could not pass the minimum scientific bar necessary for introduction to a jury in a criminal case.
This ruling has the potential to impact thousands of DUI cases, both past and present, in Scottsdale. It has yet to be determined how it will affect current cases pending in Scottsdale, nor has it been determined how it will affect past cases that have may have already been resolved. However, the attorney’s at the Rosenstein Law Group are determined to investigate every single conviction that has occurred in the past, or could possibly occur in the future, and use this amazing decision to formulate a strategy that best serves our clients.