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Newly-discovered crime lab error could lead to more DUI charges

The saga of the Orange County Crime Lab and mistakes that could affect the cases of drivers charged with driving under the influence continues. Recently the lab admitted that results of blood-alcohol tests in 2,200 cases involving DUIs were incorrect. Reportedly, 900 people already convicted of DUIs were impacted by the findings.

Now, an audit being conducted as a result of the initial problems has discovered inaccuracies in the other direction. Auditors found that one of the lab's machines was calibrated improperly between the end of last year and May of this year, and could have caused blood-alcohol levels to read as .001 percent lower than they actually were. Since blood-alcohol level is determined in DUI cases by testing it on two machines and averaging the results, the number of people whose results will put them at or over 0.08 percent (the point at which a driver is legally intoxicated) is only expected to be about 100.

Nonetheless, this could be good news for victims who were involved in car accidents with these drivers. Prosecutors in the Orange County district attorney's office plan to review the new information to determine how it will impact their cases. Because DUI sentences vary depending on how much drivers are found to be over the legal limit, people above the level where there is any room for doubt that they were under the influence could also be impacted by these new findings.

The investigation is far from complete. County officials have asked California's health department to review the way the crime lab does its work. However, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens gave her public support for the lab and its commitment to remedy its problems.

Obviously all of this has led to a lack of confidence in the lab's results. However, it does not change the matter of who is at fault in an accident. If someone causes a car accident, whether they are legally under the influence or not, they can and should be held responsible for the injuries and damage they have done to their victims. An attorney can help victims ensure that they are appropriately compensated and not let uncertainty about blood-alcohol level results cloud the question of responsibility.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "O.C. Crime Lab finds more errors in DUI testing" Richard Winton, Nov. 22, 2013

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