How Reliable are Those DUI Labs?

Another article that highlights the problem with police forensic labs (the same labs that conduct DUI chemical tests):

More SF cases may be dropped in crime lab scandal

Sun Mar 28, 8:44 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO – Prosecutors are considering dropping an additional 1,400 cases this week because of a scandal at the police crime lab, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said.

Though no final decision has been made, the additional cases would be come on top of the 500 cases that have already been dropped, spokesman Brian Buckelew said. Of those cases, prosecutors plan to refile charges in 300 cases, Buckelew said.

The police crime lab was closed March 9 following allegations that longtime technician Deborah Madden stole cocaine evidence. Madden hasn’t been charged.

One could argue that this is a case of an isolated individual doing corrupt things.  The problem here is not necessarily the individual, its the lack of oversight and proper monitoring of lab technicians and specimens.

For example, if this technician could take small amount of cocaine from samples, could she introduce a small amount of a foreign substance into a sample?

Why is there a lack of oversight?  Because these labs are set up to churn out reports, not to maintain integrity.  An audit of the crime lab mentioned above was conducted and it turns out that it was overworked and understaffed.

Audit Shows SF Crime Lab Overburdened

A newly released state audit on Tuesday found the San Francisco Police Department’s scandal-plagued crime laboratory was overworked and understaffed.

The audit by the state Department of Justice concluded that lab staff was overwhelmed trying to meet a 48-hour deadline to analyze drug evidence so prosecutors could quickly charge suspects.

“The stress and strain of trying to meet the demands of court has resulted in sacrificing quality for quantity,” the auditors wrote.

That short time frame, combined with an annual caseload of more than 14,000 cases and a limited staff of two to three analysts, “creates an untenable situation and directly affects the quality of the analytical work,” the auditors further wrote.

The audit also concluded that the lab staff was poorly trained and improperly tracked and stored drug test evidence.

“Good laboratory practices have been repeatedly short-changed in favor of high case throughput,” the audit stated.

I have blogged before about how similar circumstances have forced the WellSpan Hospital System to discontinue performing DUI blood test for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is going on all over the country and innocent people are being put in jail because of faulty lab practices.  This is why every person charged with a DUI needs to consult a highly qualified DUI attorney to make they are not convicted based on faulty tests.

-Justin J. McShane, Esquire, Pennsylvania DUI Attorney

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Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

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