The OC Crime Lab is a nationally recognized leader in the forensic science community and provides all law enforcement agencies in Orange County with services for the recognition, collection and evaluation of physical evidence from crime scenes. It is credited with being the only “full-service, internationally accredited laboratory” that provides forensic analyses to all law enforcement and fire protection agencies within Orange County.
So, when it was discovered that an error in the lab resulted in inaccurate blood alcohol readings, it was quite shocking to the legal community as lab results are seldom questioned.
Apparently, an audit of the crime lab resulted in hundreds of test results being questioned and has resulted in at least 900 letters to the individuals affected by the error.
It has been reported that the error is small, causing the tests to give inaccurate results by .003 percentage points and so, according to the District Attorney, will effect only a small numbers of those convicted of driving under the influence. The timeframe in question is approximately five months, beginning in late May.
The District Attorney has further said that of the 900, there are only about 20 whose blood alcohol reading was a .08 and should have been a .07.
Most of my clients are surprised at their blood alcohol reading once they are given the results, as they typically believe that they were “not that drunk”. An error in the lab of .003 is “small” according to the lab and the District Attorney, but large to someone who was convicted wrongly due to that error.
This type of error is exactly why DUI defense attorneys should always obtain maintenance logs for the machines, which the OC Crime Lab relies on for their results. As evidenced by this situation, human error and mechanical malfunction does occur. Although they regularly “audit” the lab results, things are missed or disregarded as small, but may have huge consequences for someone.
A definite “red flag” for any DUI defense lawyer is when their client is adamant about the amount they had to drink, the timeframe in which they began drinking, and what they had to eat. All of this information is a good indication of whether or not the blood alcohol reading was accurate or, whether a closer look should be given to the lab results.
Anyone who was arrested for DUI in May 2013 through October 2013, and whose blood alcohol was close to .08, should definitely have an attorney take a closer look to see whether or not their results were affected by the lab error. Further, anyone who believes that their results were inaccurate should take a closer look and get an opinion as to whether or not their reading was affected. For example, someone whose blood alcohol was high enough to warrant an enhancement to their DUI charge, .15 or higher, and was arrested during the above time period, should have their attorney question the results. This may result in the District Attorney dropping the added “high blood alcohol” count and thereby making disposition of the case less painful.