Yesterday, the Orange County Crime Lab announced more errors with their blood-alcohol tests. It wasn't but a few weeks ago that the lab first announced a calibration error that had been allowed to persist for about five months. This newly-discovered oversight led to an error of .001 percent, enough to affect about 100 cases according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
After the first error was discovered, the lab immediately launched an internal audit of all tests, procedures and calibration for up to five years prior. It was this audit that revealed the second calibration error, which occurred in December 2012. The California Department of Health is now stepping in to perform a complete audit of the crime lab and its procedures to see if there are any additional undiscovered errors.
A .001 percent margin of error may not seem like much, but it is actually enough to raise a .07 BAC to a .08 percent, which could warrant a DUI charge. After hitting .08 percent BAC, the legal intoxication limit, penalties can become even tougher at two blood alcohol thresholds, .15 and .20. This recent error could allow for re-opening cases and DUIs either being dismissed or reduced.
The DA's office has already sent out letters explaining the situation to about 900 people whose cases may have been affected by the first error. Now, the DA estimates that over 20 percent of those people may see their BAC test results drop a percentage point, and even more now in light of the recently-discovered errors.
Attorney Virginia Landry was quoted in an article that ran today in the OC Register, calling this information "disturbing."
"We have to have trust in science. If you can't trust science, and you can't trust the scientists, then the whole system breaks down," stated Landry.
Landry and other DUI defense attorneys like her believe that these errors might cause juries to lose faith in the blood alcohol testing system. If these types of tests are not reliable, then there is little solid evidence to base DUI convictions on.
View the OC Register article "More DUI Test Errors Found at County Lab"