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Understanding The Science When Defending DUIs

By December 24, 2023May 2nd, 2024No Comments5 min read

I’m David LaCross (of LaCross and Murphy), I’m a member of the National College for DUI Defense, which is, if you’re going to practice DUI law, you really should be a member, right? It’s a premier organization that their focus is really just making better DUI lawyers. But you can’t be a better DUI lawyer unless you understand the science of DUIs. And so, a big part of the practice now (and has been) is blood tests. Most lawyers when they get a DUI case, and then get a report that says, the police did a blood draw. And in Washington state, if you’re above a 0.08 that’s what they need to show. The blood test shows if you’re a 0.09 you’re guilty and there’s nothing I can do for you.

Of course, you know, these attorneys aren’t telling their clients that there’s nothing they can do, but that’s where it gets to right away, I’m just going to work out, you’re gonna plead guilty, or if you’re close to a 0.08, I’ll get you some type of deal where you, you get a reduction after a period of time. I know that I felt that way and in general, until I started seeing all the problems. And so I went to one of the classes, which was a week long class at the University of Arlington, Texas, and we were actually in a lab that had all of the same machines that the crime labs use across the country to test blood and I saw all the ways that these tests can have mistakes.

In addition the lab work where there’s lots of places for human error along with the errors in the machine. And then even before you get there, when they draw the blood and the transportation of the blood to this crime lab, if it gets bacteria in it is going to ferment. And that fermentation causes the alcohol level to go up. So, you know, they’re taking this blood, who knows where they store it (when I say taking the blood, either a police officer or if at the hospital, you’re having somebody there draw it). They get bacteria into it, ferments, they leave it in a warm location which causes the alcohol level to go up.

They transfer it in a UPS or a FedEx truck over to the crime lab. There’s no air conditioning in those trucks. That might help blood tubes a little bit, because when it’s hot, like I said, the alcohol level’s going to go up, then they arrive at the crime lab. They have to be stored in a refrigerator (purpose of them being in the refrigerator is so that the fermentation doesn’t occur).So now we have problems. 

Typically, like I said, most attorneys, they just get this discovery package from the prosecutor’s office regarding the DUI, which has a piece of paper that says, we tested the blood and this is the level of alcohol that we found in the blood. But all of that information about what occurs in the crime lab, you don’t get from the prosecutor’s office, and you have to, you have to do public disclosure requests to the Washington State Patrol Crime lab. And I typically get a 60, 70 even sometimes a hundred or 150 page response to what I’m asking for. From that I’ve learned that the things that you need to look for in that response to see where there’s problems.

I found out that the tech who’s over there running a hundred tubes at a time (a hundred different people tubes at a time), they can actually manipulate what’s called the chronograph, which is what shows the peaks and what the alcohol level is. So if there’s interference where there’s other stuff in that blood that shouldn’t be there, they can eliminate it. It is just crazy what they can do. So, I don’t think that you can be a responsible DUI attorney, meaning your obligations to your client, unless you spend the time to learn these things. So that’s just one area that it’s super important area, and I’m thankful to have been able to go to that class.

I’ll probably go back each year to do that. It’s expensive. And maybe that’s another reason why a lot of attorneys don’t do it so much because of the cost. But they’re charging so much money for these DUIs. They should be doing it. Right. There’s, there’s really no excuse not to invest in making yourself more knowledgeable so that you can do just a bottom level adequate job. You need to have that information and then you need to keep working at it so that you can really ensure that what they’re using that’s going to cause severe consequences for your clients is reliable accurate and follows all the scientific principles.