By on December 15, 2009

Grin and bear it!

At least eighty-two motorists in Colorado Springs, Colorado may have been falsely accused of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) based on unreliable blood test results. After double-checking its own work, the city’s Metro Crime Lab on Friday admitted that out of 1000 tests conducted since January, no fewer than eighty-two results were inflated above the driver’s true blood alcohol content. More incorrect readings could be discovered as re-testing continues.

“All of these samples are being re-analyzed by a senior forensic chemist and the Metro Crime Lab is issuing amended lab reports with the corrected results to the involved criminal justice entities,” a city press release explained. “The Metro Crime Lab has initiated a formal corrective action plan, and continues to investigate the root cause and full scope of the problem. To date, the lab has a method for identifying affected cases, and has already implemented new policies and procedures to prevent the problem occurring in the future.”

The Colorado Bureau of Investigations is performing its own independent investigation of the lab to identify the source of the erroneous readings. Agilent Technologies, manufacturer of the blood testing machines, insisted its equipment was working properly. The city prosecutor’s office and Colorado Department of Revenue are looking to see whether the amended test results will affect any drivers convicted of DUI. If so, driver’s licenses could be reinstated, criminal charges dropped and fines refunded.

“These agencies are fully supportive that corrective actions are being implemented,” the release explained.

The city claims that the errors were uncovered during a routine quality assurance check and that none of the lab’s other services have been affected. California DUI attorney Lawrence Taylor believes the errors are inherent in DUI cases that rely so heavily on readouts from fallible machines.

“Yes, tests do lie… more often than the public is aware,” Taylor explained. “The only thing unique in this story is that the inaccuracies were discovered — and published.”

Taylor cited as one example that improperly preserved blood can ferment and create alcohol where none existed before.


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4 Comments on “Colorado: Crime Lab Generates False DUI Readings...”

  • avatar

    May I recommend having something other than a blue “Teddy” bear performing the lab work?

  • avatar

    Just be glad they had the integrity (first word you learn in the academy) to man up and do the right thing.  Many cities wouldn’t.

  • avatar

    integrity (first word you learn in the academy)

    And the first to go away once they leave the academy.

    The city claims that the errors were uncovered during a routine quality assurance check and that none of the lab’s other services have been affected.

    The day a PD anywhere does a ‘random check’ and then proactively admits that errors may have been made, there was the threat of some really serious malfeasance going public. 
    From the makers of the radar guns who know that the instant on ‘POP’ mode can not possibly be accurate (even says so in the owners’ manual), to the makers of the field blow and who knows what number may show up- thruth, justice, and the American way are in extreme peril.

  • avatar

    While ‘The Newspaper’ is often solid in its criticisms of traffic law enforcement, this time they forgot to remove their foil hat.
    While I’m not certain about breath machines, I don’t think that the makers of the blood testing machine, Agilent, would want to risk the FDAs wrath at hiding out of calibration results. What they did here is exactly what should be done. Results obtained between good and bad calibration points will be suspect.
    Agilent is a regulated medical device manufacturer. I’m sure they’d sooner throw their entire blood alcohol business under the bus before they’d risk their broader medical business or brand.
    Yes, a certain amount of skepticism is in order for police agencies’ actions. But cops don’t answer to shareholders or the FDA.

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