Blood-Alcohol Testing Questioned in Michigan

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on May 22nd, 2011

As my recent posts have indicated, there is a growing awareness in many states of the unreliability of blood-alcohol testing — and a growing willingness to shutdown testing statewide.  Now this from Michigan…

DUI Blood Cases Could Face Scrutiny After Judge’s Ruling

Lansing, MI.  May 11 – Blood tests in drunken-driving cases statewide will face more scrutiny, experts say, after a Mason County judge ruled that the state crime lab’s test results "are not reliable."

In a ruling signed Friday, 79th District Court Judge Peter Wadel refused to admit blood-alcohol results in a drunken-driving case. He said the crime lab – which conducts blood and other forensic tests in cases from around the state – does not report an error rate, or margin of error, along with blood-alcohol results.

Police routinely report a single number for blood-alcohol content in drunken-driving cases. But East Lansing attorney Mike Nichols, who is handling the case in Mason County – which includes the city of Ludington along Lake Michigan – said there are no absolutes in science.

"Everyone says a blood test is so accurate. Well, it’s not," Nichols said. "That’s what this judge has ruled."

Not including a range of possible results, Nichols said, ignores the uncertainties in the collection, handling, analysis and reporting process.

A blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent is the threshold in Michigan for being charged with drunken driving. But Nichols said when someone’s blood-alcohol is determined to be 0.10, for example, it could actually be higher – or lower – than 0.08.

The Mason County case is being watched by attorneys across Michigan and the country.

Washington-based attorney Ted Vosk, who consults with defense attorneys and prosecutors about the importance of calculating error rates, praised Wadel’s ruling.

If police and prosecutors don’t acknowledge scientific uncertainties, Vosk said, innocent people will be convicted and guilty people will go free.

"And we won’t know which are which," he said…

Is it possible that law enforcement and the courts will finally stop ignoring science in DUI cases?

(Thanks to John Kruzelock.)

  • David W

    Flawed practice that the machines never lie…Sorry about that..I find this subject of great concern as guilt or innocence does not play part in the arrests that take place..Only conviction by any means possible..Including mistruths on the stand which now is being revealed by those bold enough in the public service sector to come forward and express what they have seen happen to insure accountability for mistakes are only isolated..

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