Fate of Scottsdale DUI cases now in hands of state Supreme Court

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Should blood test results coming from a machine known to make errors be admissible as evidence? That's a question that has been playing out for three years, and is now in the hands of Arizona's highest court.

Some defense attorneys argue blood test results cannot be used against their clients when the machine in Scottsdale and its technicians aren't trustworthy. We should soon know the fate of not only those cases, but the implications this could have across our state.

"We don't want drunk drivers to go free but we don't want people who haven't broken the law to be convicted," said defense attorney Joe St. Louis, who went before the five state Supreme Court justices Tuesday. Both he and attorney Lisa Marie Martin representing the state answered their questions.

"Is there anything to suggest that results for these particular defendants had any problems related to data drops?" Chief Justice Scott Bales asked, for example.

Each side had twenty minutes. St. Louis argued - and Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Jerry Bernstein previously agreed - the blood testing machine in the Scottsdale crime lab can't be used because of data drops, mislabeling, and a staff that knew about those problems.

"They need to set some boundaries for what can and can't happen when we prosecute people for crimes," St. Louis said.

Martin argued that the machine is still reliable and didn't need to be taken out of service because the errors were sporadic. The state won their appeal, which is why it is now before the Supreme Court.

"It's never been denied that it didn't have some sort of issues but it did not go to the analytic testing result," Martin said before the Court.

St. Louis claims not are the nearly dozen DUI cases named at stake, but potentially hundreds of cases that have already been adjudicated in Scottsdale, not to mention a ripple effect on crime lab standards statewide.

"If this isn't bad enough for a judge to say, 'I'm not going to let this evidence in,' how bad would it have to get?" St. Louis asked.

Scottsdale Police said they can't comment yet because of the ongoing trial but they said the machine isn't being used because they don't have enough staff; blood samples, instead, are going to the state DPS crime lab.

There is no time frame on when the Supreme Court will issue its opinion.

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