Minnesota BCA Insider Blows Whistle on Shoddy Work and Unethical Conduct: Act of Courage or Just Plain Cowardice? Part II:

Posted On October 31, 2011 by Charles Ramsay

We blogged last week regarding yet another problem that affects first void urine alcohol tests (F-VUAT) that are tested by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. In one case, we re-tested a urine sample that was reported to have an alcohol concentration of .09. Our retest, performed at an accredited laboratory, reported a result of .05 â?? significantly lower than .09, and well below the legal limit of .08.

Via sworn testimony at an Implied Consent hearing, we were told the following two tidbits:

1) The open admission that BCA forensic scientists routinely botch the handling of crucial evidence in about half of all DWI urine cases, resulting in destruction of the evidence; and,

2) The revelation that this mishandling of evidence, a problem that was announced to have been "solved| in a 2003 study by the BCA toxicology supervisor, has actually continued non-stop since that day, and that the BCA does not think that it is necessary to inform anyone about it.

So why the discrepancy?

Although the BCA forensic scientist who analyzed the sample was unable to account for the differences, the Commissioner called a second BCA employee to justify the discrepancy. His explanation was alarming.

He claimed that after testing our client's sample, the BCA froze what was left to |preserve| it. He then speculated that the freezing (instead of refrigerating) the sample caused it to lose alcohol. This, despite the fact that the 2003 peer-reviewed study addressed this issue and determined that the use of a different type of storage container would correct any problems like this.

Strangely, while acknowledging the BCA continues to use the same containers that were previously found to correctly preserve these urine samples, he then testified that the conclusions of the previous 2003 peer-reviewed study are wrong â?? despite the fact that 1) he was an employee of the BCA at the time the study was published, 2) neither he nor the BCA has taken steps to correct the published article, and 3) he is of the personal opinion that the BCA has no duty to actually preserve these samples for retesting, because his lab results are good enough!

Not only does he disagree with the published 2003 peer- reviewed study, he openly speculated that shoddy work forensic scientists at the BCA are responsible for this discrepancy. Specifically, his |conjecture| is that the forensic scientist who analyzed our client's urine test failed to properly seal the urine container - which then purportedly allowed the alcohol to evaporate. He also believes that an analyst's failure to properly secure the lid on the urine samples occurs in about ½ of all the urine test samples at the BCA lab! Under his version of the truth, literally thousands of samples are being destroyed (from an evidentiary standpoint) because analysts can't be bothered to tighten the lids properly.

If this explanation holds up in court, the BCA has stumbled upon a dramatic new way to forever prevent any other lab from reviewing their results. If a retested sample produces the same results, they can claim that this just supports the fact that they did everything right the first time. If a retested sample produces different results, they can keep on saying that they did everything right the first time, and blame that tricky sample for changing on them!

Last week we rhetorically asked when would a courageous BCA employee come forward and blow the whistle on BCA practices. We did not think it would happen like this! Ironically, it is the |whistleblower's| attempt to explain the discrepancy between two test results that reveals not only widespread incompetence and fraud by omission, but as a panel of judges in the State of Washington put it, it may also reveal a culture of |â??culture of compromise' with so many |ethical lapses, systemic inaccuracy, negligence and violations of scientific principles.|

Are we just beginning to scratch the surface in Minnesota?