DUI Lab Error Affects Thousands of DMV Suspensions

More than 2,200 DUI cases are under review by Orange County prosecutors after it was disclosed that the OC crime lab overstated blood alcohol tests, the Los Angeles Times reported today. The “human error” occurred over a five month period, and was discovered by a routine audit on October 10, 2013.

Both the OC D.A.’s office and the crime lab downplayed the effect of the errors, noting that the “calibration error” responsible won’t affect the actual reported results all that much because those results are averaged from the values of two machines.  Some 200 cases will see the BAC change by 0.01, for example, making a 0.08 case a 0.07.   “When you arrest a person and they have a 0.07 two hours after arrest, they had a 0.08 at the time of arrest. We have obtained convictions in those cases,” said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the OC D.A. The are not going to dismiss every case with a bad blood test.

As outrageous as that attitude seems to a motorist accused of breaking the law, the DMV side of things is at once worse and better. The “worse” part is that DMV is offering NO relief for motorists whose licenses were suspended based on the faulty results. The “better” part for motorists is that EVERY case affected should result in a set aside (reversal) of the suspension because DMV needs to call a toxicologist to the stand to say under oath that the “human error” did not affect a particular case.

The story has been widely reported elsewhere, including the Orange County Register, on KTLA, ABCCBS, and NBC. Photo courtesy Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times.

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