Freedom through Independence: Erroneous DWI Blood Test Results

Posted On May 04, 2010 by Charles Ramsay

Yesterday, we blogged about the serious deficiencies of our nation's forensic science system. We noted that although Minnesota's crime lab has escaped wide spread scandal (notwithstanding the source code debacle), anecdotal evidence has emerged indicating the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is not immune from shoddy work.

Using independent analysis and independent testing, our firm discovered specific cases this year where the Minnesota BCA has reported inaccurate Driving While Impaired (DWI) test results. The BCA's errors apply to all three DWI alcohol tests â?? blood, breath and urine. Today, we report on an erroneous BCA blood test result.


Our client ("JM|) was arrested in February, 2010 for suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Ramsey County, Minnesota. The police asked JM to submit to a blood test and she complied. A paramedic withdrew the blood at the police station and mailed the blood sample to the Minnesota BCA for analysis. The BCA reported JM's alcohol concentration to be .08, over the legal limit. The state revoked JM's license to drive and charged her with Fourth Degree DWI.

We believe that good DWI defense attorneys never assume that government tests results are accurate. To verify JM's BCA test results my firm had her blood retested by a reputable, independent lab. The results were astounding. The independent lab's analysis revealed the BCA test results were inaccurate. The independent lab results were .078 â?? below the legal limit!

We have already had JM's driver's license reinstated and the incident removed from her driving record. With the benefit of the independent lab results of JM's blood sample, I fully expect we will be successful in the criminal DWI case as well.

Blood testing is widely recognized as the |gold standard| for DWI alcohol testing. But a test is only as good as those who conduct the testing and only as reliable as the procedures they follow, including reporting the uncertainty in the test results (for an excellent article about metrology and reporting uncertainty, see The Truth About Forensic Science by Pennsylvania attorney, Justin McShane).

When investigating a blood test case, DWI lawyers should obtain not only the final lab reports, but also such information as all Quality Control tests used; all Quality Control tests performed on the test kit; any and all records relating to the test results; Chain of Custody records; the actual Gas Chromatograms; and Proficiency Records or results of proficiency tests for the BCA lab and the analyst who conducted the test.

Finally, attorneys should consider having the government's DWI blood test results independently evaluated. In many cases, your clients may gain their freedom through independence.

Tomorrow in part three of our series on independent testing and analysis: DWI urine test results.

Part 1: Freedom through Independence: Crises in Our Nation's Forensic Science System

Part 2: Freedom through Independence: Erroneous DWI Blood Test Results

Part 3: Freedom through Independence: Erroneous DWI Urine Test Results

Part 4: Freedom through Independence: Erroneous DWI Intoxilyzer 5000 Breath Test Results