Court reinstates Scottsdale DUI test results

There was a CoA ruling recently in a long-running case that questioned the accuracy of one particular piece of lab equipment used in Scottdale’s crime lab involved with a handful of serious DUI cases.

CA-SA 13-0285 STATE v. HON. BERNSTEIN/HERMAN in the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1, was a so-called “special action” brought by Maricopa County Prosecutor Bill Mongomery. I don’t know how these things might play out; will the defendants try and bring it to the Supreme Court? Anyway, Note to looker-uppers: all the criminal case numbers are listed out right at the head of the opinion; these cases are very serious, all were charged with “aggravated” DUI (28-1383), and have all previously been convicted of some problem involving their driving, including driving with suspended license due to prior DUI convictions, or being accused of DUI after two prior DUI convictions(!). In other words: hard-core. The results in question, detailed in the opinion, ranged from 0.143 to a whopping 0.318 BAC (0.08 is the legal limit, above 0.15 is “extreme” DUI).

I don’t know the legal/techno ins-and-outs of the argument but the conclusion (the part I bolded, below, from the news story) seems correct…

Court reinstates Scottsdale DUI test results

The Arizona Court of Appeals has overturned a judge’s decision in Maricopa County Superior Court to throw out the results of tests conducted by the Scottsdale Police Department’s crime lab that analyzed the blood of 10 aggravated- and extreme-DUI suspects… In their ruling Tuesday, Judges Samuel Thumma, Randall Howe and Patricia Orozco agreed with prosecutors’ assertions that none of the defendants’ lawyers demonstrated that their clients’ test results were inaccurate and said that claims of problematic evidence should be raised in a criminal-court trial

Here’s what one of the defense attorneys said in the news story:  “Joe St. Louis, an attorney representing one of the 10 defendants, was disappointed by the opinion. ‘From our perspective, this is a broken machine (that’s) never been fixed and the results are not reliable,’ St. Louis said”… Qualitatively, you just know this is DUI-defense-lawyer shenanigans since (from the opinion) “Although the second vial of blood is available for independent testing by Defendants, the record does not contain any independent test results conducted by any of the Defendants”. So there were claimed problems with the machine but none of the defendants sought a re-test? Hmmm.

Some other numerically interesting minutia: “… In fact, retesting [by Scottdale Crime Lab] of Defendant Herman’s blood in August 2011 revealed a BAC of 0.180, a result consistent with the March 2010 0.192 BAC result, given that alcohol in blood samples naturally degrades over time”. I’ve wondered about that; that was over a period of about 17 months.

Much of the opinion is consumed with legally-technical matters revolving around a recent change to Arizona rules of evidence: “Effective January 1, 2012, Arizona Rule of Evidence 702 was amended to conform to Federal Rule of Evidence 702”

Supreme Court “splits the baby”

In April 2015 the Supreme court weighed in on CV14-57-PR . It seems to be a a balanced ruling that invalidated parts of the lower court’s rulings — it allows the prosecution to enter the evidence from Scottdale’s crime lab and allows the defense to submit that the evidence may be faulty. It was noted in the news story that of the 11 cases in question, only one defendant has elected to re-test a second vial of blood (second vials are available to all 11); as noted above that one re-test showed that defendant’s blood was above 0.15, as did the original, disputed test.

The case had resulted from the consolidation of 11 Scottsdale aggravated DUI cases. To be charged with aggravated DUI, the driver must meet at least one of these conditions: a child younger than 15 was in the car; two prior DUI convictions in the past seven years; or a suspended, revoked or restricted driver’s license at the time of the DUI. These are felony cases tried in Superior Court, while misdemeanor DUIs are sent to city court…

Scottsdale police averaged about 2,500 DUI arrests per year from 2009 through 2013, according to data provided by Scottsdale police Sgt. Ben Hoster. Of those arrests, about 6 percent, or roughly 150 annually, were aggravated DUIs — azcentral

The machine in question is a Clarus 500 gas headspace chromatograph manufactured by PerkinElmer.