PA Blood Alcohol Testing
In almost every DUI case, the motorist is asked to take a chemical test of his blood, breath, or urine. The courts often view chemical test evidence as “scientific” and really don’t look at how the results were reached. Often, attorneys do not even look at how their client’s chemical test results were reached. This is important in DUI defense because forensic testing for blood alcohol results is fraught with error.
Blood Alcohol Testing results can be used in Court
Typically, prosecutors call a witness from the crime lab to appear in court and testify that a motorist’s blood alcohol content was a certain level, and that that level was over the legal limit. It is very rare for the actual analyst who did the testing to appear in court and testify. Recently, the United States Supreme Court ruled (in Bullcoming v. New Mexico) that the defendant has a right to confront the actual person who tested the blood. In the Bullcoming case, the motorist was charged with DUI. At trial, the prosecutor did not call as a witness the analyst who actually tested the defendant’s blood; instead, he called an analyst from the lab that was familiar with testing procedures to testify about the defendant’s blood alcohol level. The Supreme Court ruled that, absent narrow circumstances, the actual analyst who examined the blood has to appear in court to testify. The court explained that under the circumstances, an accused has the absolute right to confront and cross-examine someone who is producing damning evidence.
Blood Alcohol Testing can have errors
The Court’s rationale acknowledged that blood alcohol testing is fraught with human error. If your DUI case involves a blood alcohol test, call our office to discuss your case. Former Pennsylvania State Police attorney Mike Sherman attended a 5 day course at the Axion Analytical Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois. The course was held in a laboratory where Mike and his classmates learned how to operate, and even take apart, a gas chromatograph. A gas chromatograph is the machine typically used to test a person’s blood alcohol level. One of Mike’s teachers was Dr. Harold McNair, an internationally known expert and one of the pioneers in the area of gas chromatography.