Supreme Court Demands Lab Techs Testify in DUI Cases
November 13, 2009

A new ruling by the United States Supreme Court is expected to impact the prosecution of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) cases in California and across the U.S. The Supreme Court ruled that when crime lab or breathalyzer reports are used to establish that a defendant was under the influence of a high level of alcohol or illegal drugs, the prosecutor must make a laboratory technician available during court to testify in person. In its decision, the Supreme Court equated such lab reports to witnesses for the prosecution. Justice Scalia wrote, that under the Sixth Amendment a defendant has the right to “be confronted with the witnesses against him.” In DUI cases (drug or alcohol), and other cases in which lab reports play an important role in the prosecution’s case, Scalia wrote that defendants were “entitled to be confronted with the analysts at trial.”

Prosecutors have expressed concern about the cost and potential availability of lab technicians for courtroom appearances. However, in his successful arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, Stanford University law professor Jeffrey Fisher noted that presenting crime experts at trials is already common practice in some states, including California. While prosecutors down played the impact of the Supreme Court ruling, criminal defense attorneys applauded the opportunity to challenge lab reports in court, noting that crime labs sometimes make mistakes that result in the conviction of innocent people.

California prosecutes DUI cases aggressively. A DUI charge results in two proceedings against a defendant: a criminal court case and a Department of Motor Vehicle hearing. Legal proceedings can be complex, and a conviction can have serious consequences (including the loss of your license, and jail time). A DUI charge demands immediate attention and aggressive action from an experienced California DUI defense firm like Wallin & Klarich. If you, or a loved one, are facing a DUI charge, please call our firm at 1-(877) 466-5245 for an initial consultation. We will be available 24/7.

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