The LA Times is reporting that more errors have been discovered at the Orange County Crime Lab. Last month this blog talked about the error that was discovered in the lab that Orange County uses to evaluate the blood samples from DUI suspects. The error that was discovered was believed to have affected as many as 2,200 people. The samples affected dated back from November 2013 to May 2013 and about 900 people received a letter from the District Attorney stating that there could have been a problem with their results. Many people were upset by this news, especially those that were previously convicted of DUI during that period.
The first error was believed to be caused by a calibration problem that caused machines to give results that were .0003 points off. While this may not seem like a lot, it could make all the difference for a DUI suspect with a BAC of .08%. In California, a driver can be charged with DUI simply for driving with a alcohol concentration of .08% or over.
To make matters worse, a second error was just discovered during an internal audit. The lab discovered that one of the machines used to test the blood samples had a calibration error of .001 between December 2012 and May 2013.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department announced this last week and said that it only affected about 100 cases by causing the results to be underestimated by .01. They also said that in about nine of those cases, the driver's BAC would move from .07% to .08% meaning that these drivers would now be considered over the legal limit. There is no word yet on how this could affect those drivers' cases.
If one lab can have two different calibration problems over the course of one year, it may lead some to wonder what the problem really is. Is this lab so poorly managed that calibration tests are never performed or could these types of errors be common in crime labs and this is only the first we are hearing of them? Hopefully this attention will put pressure on other labs to endure accurate results.