Have you recently been charged with DUI, DWAI or DUID? Did you agree to have a blood test completed to determine your blood alcohol level? If so, the breaking news regarding the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) may be of interest to you. On Friday last week, the Colorado Attorney General released an investigative report which calls into question the reliability of tests completed at CDPHE. Not all, but many law enforcement agencies in Colorado send blood samples to CDPHE for testing. If you recently agreed to have a blood sample taken and your blood alcohol level was allegedly over the legal limit, you should contact an attorney to ensure all relevant information related to your test is turned over to ensure you are not wrongly convicted of a DUI.
Colorado State Lab Accused of Mishandling Evidence
DENVER — Every day, vials of human blood arrive at the state toxicology lab here to be tested for alcohol and drugs. The results can offer a crucial piece of evidence in criminal cases like charges involving drunken driving and vehicular homicide.
Defense lawyers said Monday that many of those cases were now in doubt after investigators hired by the state found problems including bias against defendants, inadequate training and flaws in the way evidence is stored at the lab.
“Thousands of cases are now affected,” said Jay Tiftickjian, a defense lawyer who handles drunken-driving cases. He said he had received phone calls from clients asking whether the revelations could mean a new trial or help overturn their convictions.
State officials say that the crime lab is one of the best in the nation and that the problems are isolated to a supervisor in one division that is responsible for processing blood-alcohol samples. Last spring, Colorado was forced to retest hundreds of samples after discovering that a lab employee had strayed from standard procedures.
The reliability of the state’s toxicology lab is being questioned as Colorado is setting up a new system to test and prosecute motorists for driving while under the influence of marijuana. After Colorado voted in the fall to legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, lawmakers here passed limits on the amount of THC — marijuana’s psychoactive component — in a driver’s bloodstream.
Critics of the new limits said blood tests could be an unreliable measure of whether drivers were truly impaired, and are worried that the system may lead to wrongful convictions.
The accusations about Colorado’s toxicology lab were included in March 18 report that was made public on Monday.
The investigators who examined the lab laid out a list of problems: The lab was understaffed; although blood and urine samples were stored behind a locked door, they were kept in an unlocked refrigerator and vulnerable to tampering; and lab employees who appeared in court said they felt that they had not been adequately trained, and that they were being pressured to present themselves as experts.
Lab technicians also called their supervisor a bully who had them help her with her graduate thesis during working hours.
Officials said most of the problems could be traced back to one supervisor, who has retired. They said they would do everything possible to deal with the faults.
“It is critical that the scientific work of the toxicology lab meets the highest standards,” said Chris Urbina, the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees the lab.