Colo. Springs Lab Says Blood-alcohol Tests Wrong
P. SOLOMON BANDA, Associated Press Writer
DENVER (AP) ― Hundreds of DUI and criminal cases in Colorado Springs could be affected by the discovery of faulty blood-alcohol tests.
Police there said Friday that about 82 tests have been found so far showing a higher blood-alcohol content than the true result. An internal investigation found problems with results of tests of blood samples at the Metro Crime Lab since January.
More than 1,000 blood-alcohol samples tested since then are being retested, with the new results going to the El Paso County district attorney and the Department of Revenue, which issues driver’s licenses. Police spokesman Dave Whitlock said the DA’s office and revenue department officials are researching the impact of the new results on criminal cases and civil revocation of driver’s licenses.
“We’re still getting our arms around the totality of it,” Whitlock said. “We understand how regrettable this and we’re owning up to our own error.”
Whitlock said the errors were identified through checks and balances within the lab’s quality assurance program and officials don’t believe all the tests were inaccurate.
Changes have been made to correct the problem, Whitlock said.
An internal police investigation is searching for the source of the problem, examining whether the mistakes were caused by the process or human error. Instruments manufactured by Agilent Technologies have been ruled out as the cause.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the state’s main law enforcement agency, is also investigating.
It’s unclear whether the district attorney’s office is notifying defense attorneys or defendants in past cases. Messages left at the district attorney’s office were not immediately returned.
“It puts a lot things into question,” said Sandy Mullins, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, a group representing defense attorneys across the state. “We take a lot of these tests as fact, when in fact these are being administered by people and systems. Just like any system, they can be faulty.”
Of greatest concern is cases where people who couldn’t afford to challenge the test pleaded guilty or were convicted.
“You’re up against the machine,” Mullins said. “‘You’re saying I was not drunk, I know I had only this much alcohol.’ They’re saying: ‘Your blood had this much and the test doesn’t lie.’ This proves that tests do lie sometimes.”
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