The Arizona Supreme Court is reviewing whether blood-alcohol test results from an erroneous machine at the Scottsdale crime lab can be used as evidence against several DUI cases from 2013.
A lower court previously found the BAC results to be permissible evidence in court, allowing the defendants’ cases to move forward. However, some of the defense attorneys involved disagreed with this ruling, arguing that their clients shouldn’t be subject to the results of compromised tests from untrustworthy equipment and lab staff.
In July 2013, the lab was criticized for using defective equipment to test the BAC of those arrested on suspicion of DUI in Scottsdale. Court documents indicated that Scottsdale police and lab technicians knew the machine was running on outdated software from 2009, resulting in mislabelled and inaccurate data for as many as 50 percent of samples.
Recently, Arizona’s highest court began oral debates to decide the fate of nearly a dozen DUI cases with attorneys Joe St. Louis and Lisa Marie Martin presenting their arguments before five state Supreme Court justices.
St. Louis argued against using the results as evidence in court, saying, “we don’t want drunk drivers to go free but we don’t want people who haven’t broken the law to be convicted.”
Martin represents the state, and defended the lower court’s previous decision to proceed with the DUI cases at hand because the machine was only intermittently producing mistakes.
Despite knowing about the faulty machine, tests continued to go through the lab for use in DUI cases. As a result, it’s possible that numerous people could have been wrongly convicted of DUIs due to the incorrect tests.
This possibility hasn’t been sitting well with many because Arizona’s DUI laws are some of the harshest in the nation, with a minimum of 24 hours in jail, license suspension and intense fines for all offenders, including first time offenders.
With 29,000 DUI arrests made in 2013 alone, the percentage of potential false convictions that could have been made over the years is cause for controversy.
No decisions have been made yet, but blood samples are no longer being processed on the Scottsdale machine due to staffing issues, and instead are sent to the state DPS lab, Scottsdale Police report.