Call Us831-426-5800

Call Us831-566-4357

303 Potrero Street, Suite 30
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Supreme Court rules for defendant in DUI case

 Posted on June 24, 2011 in DUI

In 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a crime lab report was sufficiently similar to testimony. The case involved drug charges. The lab report stated the results of tests showed that a substance was cocaine. The Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors could not introduce the lab report as evidence in the criminal trial without a live witness that was competent to testify to the truth of the statements made in the report under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.

Thursday the Supreme Court ruled that the live witness cannot be anyone but the original lab analysts who conducted the laboratory test. Thursday's ruling involved a DUI case where prosecutors introduced a lab report showing the results of a blood test drawn after a DUI arrest. Prosecutors had a live witness testify as to the statements made in the lab report, but the live witness had not conducted the original analysis.

The prosecutor called a supervisor from the crime lab to testify regarding the results shown on the lab report. The supervisor had not personally conducted the laboratory tests. A separate lab technician had conducted the DUI blood test sample analysis and signed the lab report. The prosecutor said the original analyst was on unpaid leave, without offering any further information.

At trial, the defense objected to the supervisor's testimony and the results alleged in the lab report on Sixth Amendment grounds. The trial judge overruled the objection and allowed the testimony and lab report. The jury convicted the defendant of driving under the influence.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, says the surrogate testimony of the lab supervisor could not convey what the original lab analyst knew about the testing procedure at the time the tests were actually conducted. Ginsburg writes, "The Sixth Amendment does not tolerate dispensing with confrontation simply because a court believes that questioning one witness about another's testimonial statements provides a fair enough opportunity for cross-examination."

Justice Kennedy offered his dissent, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito and Stephen Breyer. Kennedy writes, "In these circumstances, requiring the state to call the technician who filled out a form and recorded the results of a test is a hollow formality,"

Source: AP via Fox News, "Court says lab analyst must testify to own work," 23 Jun 2011

Share this post:
Back to Top