DUI defendants wrongly accused due to software glitch in Scottsdale lab?

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Javier Soto

Posted on April 24, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 29 at 9:44 PM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Nearly a dozen Scottsdale DUI cases could be thrown out and that could be just the tip of the iceberg. It's possible that the defendants in those cases might have been wrongly accused.

At issue is whether the Scottsdale Police Lab, which has been accredited since the mid-'90s, used old software in a new blood-testing machine. The software and hardware reportedly are incompatible. The combination could have caused as many as 50 percent of the processed samples to be misread.

A criminal defense attorney noticed irregularities in the BAC results from Scottsdale's crime lab while working on behalf of a client. He has since teamed up with other lawyers to try and figure out exactly how many cases might be involved. They say the potentially affected cases date back to 2009, which is when the software was switched.

"And when you have a machine in the Scottsdale Crime Lab that we known are not capable of gathering and producing data and recording it appropriately, we have a major problem,"  Scottsdale attorney Craig Rosenstein told 3TV.

Who wants innocent people accused of crimes they didn't commit?  As citizens of Scottsdale we should be overly concerned," Rosenstein added.

Scottsdale Police would not comment on camera, citing the ongoing court proceedings, but released a statement from Sgt. Mark Clark.

"We can tell you that the Scottsdale Police Lab is an accredited testing forensics lab. We were first accredited in 1996. We have met or exceed [sic] the rigorous standards set by [the] American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board every year since then. We continue to adhere to the standards, include [sic] internationally recognized best practices for maintenance and calibration of all lab equipment.

"In addition, we collect 2 blood vials from the defendant, one for our testing and one is for the defense to have their own independent testing done. All of the cases you are referring to have blood samples available for the defense to [do] their own testing on,"  Clark said in the statement.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is standing behind the Scottsdale lab.

"Media reports claiming that this matter will lead to the dismissal of DUI cases are exaggerated and not based on the actual facts at issue.   Our office supports the integrity of the tools and techniques employed by Scottsdale Police," spokesman Jerry Cobb told 3TV in a statement.

Eleven cases have been combined for an evidentiary hearing in which a judge will decide if the BAC results from the machine in question can be heard at trial.

It's not clear when that ruling will be handed down.

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