Judge tosses out evidence in DUI cases after finding problems with Scottsdale Crime Lab

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PHOENIX – A judge threw out proof used in a group of DUI cases from Scottsdale, referencing ‘malfunctioning’ equipment in the Scottsdale Crime Lab.

After a long legal war, in his ruling Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jerry Bernstein said he has “significant questions” about the “reliability and confidence in” a device used to test driving under the influence suspects’ blood at the lab. The court ruling could impact hundreds of driving under the influence cases.

The case was filed by a group of Valley attorneys and it was specifically focused on eleven driving while intoxicated cases, but according to the attorneys Thursday’s ruling could have a ripple effect on the cases.

Attorney Mark DuBiel told 3TV, “Absolutely, [anyone with a Scottsdale DUI case] should contact an attorney to have them review their case because the very first day this machine was out of the box, it had a problem”. The attorneys said that software issues prevented accurate readings from the blood testing device. Attorney Joseph St. Louis said, “It kept failing month after month, error after error. When you look at it in its entirety, the results just aren’t reliable”. The question if it could affect everybody whose blood has been tested on that machine? “Yes, it could,” he answered. The attorneys also said that the Scottsdale Crime Lab managers and staff were aware of the issues with the testing device, but they kept using the device.

The judge criticized the lab staff for openly discussing the issues with the testing device in inner-office emails, then denying issues with the equipment when asked about it in the court.

Attorneys who filed the case said Scottsdale P. D. violated the public’s trust by using a testing device they knew was not reliable and accurate.

Attorney Lawrence Koplow said, “This [crime] lab has been misleading people about what’s been going on in the lab”.

Attorney Mark Dubiel said, “Science is all about following minimum standards and the Scottsdale Crime lab failed in that duty. We had a crime lab acting as an advocate, trying to get to a result rather than following standard procedures”.

The problem started in 2009 when a crime lab technician installed old software onto a new blood-testing device but the old software may not have been compatible with the new device that gave inaccurate results in many blood testing cases.

A statement was released by the Scotland police a few months ago: “We have met or exceeded the rigorous standards set by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors. We continue to adhere to those standards”.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s office decided to appeal the ruling, and Scottsdale officials are supporting their lab, its testing device, and the staff.

A statement was sent by Police Chief Alan Rodbell to 3TV, “A judge has made a ruling regarding one aspect of 11 felony DUI cases being prosecuted by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO). We understand that this ruling will be appealed by the MCAO and our department is working with them on an appropriate response. As the judicial process moves forward, I continue to have complete confidence in our crime lab personnel and procedures”.

On Thursday night, a statement was sent by the Scottsdale City Attorney’s office which showed his confidence in the lab device, “The Scottsdale City Attorney’s Office maintains full confidence in the evidence evaluated by Scottsdale Police Department crime lab, and is prosecuting cases in Scottsdale City Court as normal while this ruling is appealed”.

The attorneys said that Thursday’s ruling makes it clear, that the crime lab requires changes in it. Attorney Clifford Girard said, “I think the most responsible thing for Scottsdale to do would be to take this machine out of service. Go buy a new instrument”.

News Source: www.AZFamily.com

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