A recent study was published in the Criminal Justice Ethics academic journal questions the techniques used in the United States to evaluate DUI blood samples. Syracuse University Professor Roger Koppl and Meghan Sacks from Fairleigh Dickinson University penned a paper studying how laboratories evaluate blood and urine samples from DUI suspects. What they found may be surprising to some.
Koppl and Sacks discovered that 14 states, including California, actually pay a financial reward to laboratories for every sample they test positive for alcohol over legal limits. This practice gives labs the incentive to produce results that will lead to conviction. North Carolina, for example, pays $600 upon conviction to the law enforcement agency that produced the lab tested the sample. While this may not lead to laboratories flat out lying or skewing results, it will make them bias. If a technician wants to get a certain result, they are less likely to double check their results when the first analysis produces the desired information.
This practice combined with the fact that labs no they will be the only ones handling the sample discourage the technicians from using extreme care. There is no incentive for labs to re-check some samples and this can lead to errors going undetected. One article analyzing this report states that:
When there is a reward for a guilty result, a lab technician will not double-check test results that are in the guilty range, though he would be more likely to double-check results that show innocence. The same effects do not work in favor of the defense, which usually depends solely on the forensic report produced by the prosecution.
The authors of the report state that even if lab bias is only responsible for a very small number of false DUI convictions, it could still have a big impact on many lives. For example, a 3% error rate could lead to as many as 33,000 individuals being falsely convicted for DUI.
The best idea for those facing a DUI in California, especially when the BAC results are borderline, is to hire a DUI attorney. An experienced attorney knows how to have your blood sample re-tested by an independent laboratory to make sure that no errors were made during the initial analysis.