Lab Errors in Colorado Springs Result in DUI Dismissals

Faulty chemist reports in 206 DUI cases in Colorado Springs have resulted in the dismissal or reduction of charges in 9 cases, including 5 where the defendants had already served time. The faulty testing resulted in higher blood alcohols being reported.

The mistakes were discovered when two chemists were given proficiency tests and one failed. Local defense attorney Tim Busey, filed an open records request to obtain some of the documents related to the errors says:

“Every person in the county needs to be concerned about that lab,” he said. “To simply blame it on one analyst is to ignore the fact that any lab is a system of checks and balances from the lab to the certifying agency, which in this case is the department of health.”

A summary of the nine cases is here.

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  • Display: Sort:
    What is the BA under CO state law (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 07:06:21 PM EST
    for a DUI per se?  Is there a statutory mandatory minimum in custody requirement if no prior conviction?

    .08. Statute: (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 07:13:55 PM EST
    BA over .20 requires 10 days (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 07:17:11 PM EST
    custody. link

    Most first offenders with .08 per se (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 07:36:42 PM EST
    get suspended sentence, probation, alcohol eval and have to attend classes. Here's what the legislature says.

    A person is presumed to be DWAI if the test shows a blood alcohol level of more than 0.05 but less than 0.08. A person is presumed to be DUI if the test shows a blood alcohol level of at least 0.08. A person may be classified as a persistent drunk driver and subject to greater penalties if the test shows a blood alcohol level of at least 0.17.

    More pertinent (none / 0) (#5)
    by Rojas on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 07:42:21 PM EST
    Have you ever conducted a Gauge Repeatability and Reproducibility analysis on one of these machines?
    If not why not?

    Diogenes Theorem (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 08:37:59 PM EST
    All these guys had high BAI's; even the ones with 0.045 revised had higher BAI's at some point before they were pulled over unless they were actually drinking while they were driving.  And I'd bet that anyone driving with these BAI's who was caught once has driven ten or a hundred other times and not been pulled over.
    If you get bad Karma, it haunts you.  None of these guys were teetotaling Sunday School teachers with 0.00 BAI's.

    That;s a shame (none / 0) (#7)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 10:21:02 PM EST
    DUI is one of the few crimes that I've always felt needs more draconian enforcement.

    It's not just a slap on the wrist (none / 0) (#8)
    by Raskolnikov on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 03:44:02 AM EST
    If you don't have a lot of money.  First offense OWI is about $4000 for the fine, substance abuse treatment, mandated DOT course and public defender fees.  You lose your license for six months or can retain it for a work license if you install a blower and get SR22 insurance.  Two days in jail is minimum for first offense.  Third offense is a $9750 minimum fine and a significant jail sentence, not to mention a felony, at least in Iowa.

    This seems to be an issue where some people seem to think OWI offenders should be executed for first offenses, when really the fines and jail time can oftentimes result in a loss of job, leave you with a permanent record thus making it harder to regain employment, and problematically make repayment of fines more difficult as well.  If, for example, they recommend intensive outpatient care for substance abuse, the course runs about $3500 or $230/hour of treatment.  If you are unable to pay this (they set the minimum for payment pretty high, especially for someone on a fixed income) and unable to qualify for financial aid (most clinic financial aid forms don't take credit card debt into account and stop at $10/hour) then you have to serve a 20 day contempt charge, only to rinse and repeat the cycle.  

    Having had a brief brush with the law, I met a lot of people stuck in a cycle of debt and legal obligations they couldn't meet.  It is almost impossible, especially in this climate, to get a full-time job with a criminal record and a terrible employment history.

    There's also a great range for sentencing jail time.  While the minimum is two days for a first offense the maximum is a year, and it only escalates as the number of offense increases.


    Addendum (none / 0) (#9)
    by Raskolnikov on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 03:55:19 AM EST
    If you do in fact cause destruction or damage to an individual while driving drunk then absolutely you should be punished accordingly, and I certainly don't think any clemency should be granted because you were drunk, but I think to punish people because there is the possibility they could have hurt or killed somebody is inconsistent with my understanding of our justice system.  A family friend died trying to break up a bar fight (concussed, fell asleep), but I don't think because that can possibly happen that any drunken assault should be equivalent to attempted murder, as we have laws that deal with those situations should they arise.

    And (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 12:47:09 PM EST
    It's totally preventable as one neither needs to drink nor drive.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#13)
    by Raskolnikov on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 12:54:08 PM EST
    I just don't agree the punishment needs to be more severe.  From experience with a few alcoholic friends the mandated substance abuse was actually very very helpful, and a lot now are doing a lot better controlling their bad habits, I just wish the program were more affordable.

    A little off topic, but after a friend got busted for distribution of marijuana and got inpatient rehab as a result of his sentence he described the experience as the best in his life, so I would say the focus should be more on treatment than punishment.  YMMV, as they say.


    Ah, life in New Somolia. (none / 0) (#10)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 08:24:23 AM EST
    Expect more of this kind of stuff going forward.  The Dept. of Health is one of the government functions that is being "drowned in the bathtub".

    just curious, (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 11:13:13 AM EST
    what happened to the other 196 cases?