Washington DUI Hearing on State Toxicology Lab Problems Could Loom Large
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Troubles at the Washington State Patrol toxicology lab have prompted DUI attorneys to mount protests in district court concerning more than 50 DUI cases, and the ultimate decision could have a wide-ranging impact on hundreds to even thousands of other cases.
Earlier this week, two Skagit County judges began to hear about the problems at the state toxicology lab and how they could be detrimental to DUI cases throughout Washington.
The major issue at hand concerns how the lab produces and tests an ethanol-water solution which essentially ensures that the state's breathalyzer machines are working properly.
Back in July, the state lab's former manager, Ann Marie Gordon, abruptly resigned after being accused more than once of signing statements that she had tested the solution when she really hadn't.
Washington DUI attorneys will call Gordon to testify in this hearing. Gordon is expected to plead the fifth, or in other words, invoke her right against self-incrimination. King County prosecutors are still deciding on what course of action to take with her.
Washington DUI attorneys have also detailed another alarming problem at the state toxicology lab. These Washington DUI lawyers have asserted that a computer glitch at the lab led to inaccurate data for the ethanol-water solution.
Why does this matter? Well, the ethanol-water solution must be mixed in a precise ratio in order to produce the most accurate breathalyzer readings. In other words, one slight mistake in the mixing of the solution could produce faulty breathalyzer readings and potential loopholes in DUI cases.
The Washington State Patrol has denied that the accuracy of the breathalyzer results has been compromised. Nonetheless, Washington DUI attorneys are asking the judges to do one of two things: either dismiss the DUI charges against more than 50 people or kick the results of the breath tests in those cases out of court
A Seattle Post-Intelligencer story detailed that a Skagit County deputy prosecutor and an assistant Seattle city attorney will continue to press forward with using the breath test results as evidence against the suspects.
The story also indicated that the judges will likely use testimony from this hearing, which has just started with DUI attorneys questioning scientists at the lab and could take a couple of months to conclude, as the basis for making decisions in hundreds to thousands of similar, upcoming cases.
Total DUI will keep you updated on the developments of this interesting hearing, which reveals once again an important lesson to anyone suspected of DUI based on a breath test: breathalyzers are far from 100-percent certain and may often be challenged in DUI cases.