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12/15/2009
Colorado: Crime Lab Generates False DUI Readings
Crime lab in Colorado Springs, Colorado inflated the blood alcohol scores in 82 alleged drunk driving cases.

Crime lab
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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