The State Doesn't Properly Report Alcohol Measurements

Posted On May 15, 2023 Charles Ramsay

The way an alcohol test is reported has a huge impact on the citizens of Minnesota. Since every test includes two measurements, it’s important to think carefully about how to report the final result used for prosecution. 

State crime lab “scientists” can make innocent people criminals, merely by reporting the test results in a different way.

Scientists raise the legal alcohol limit in the lab

In 2014, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) blood alcohol lab began reporting the average results instead of the lower of the two results. This means that you could have one blood measurement come out to 0.079, and the second one comes out to be 0.082, but your final reported result would be 0.081.

In previous years, this would have been unthinkable. 

But because some “scientists” at the BCA decided to change the way they report results, they turned innocent citizens into criminals.

Notice that none of this went through the legislative process. 

The BCA’s new way of reporting blood results effectively raised the legal limit. These are matters that should be decided in the open light of the legislative process, not in the dark corners of a lab.

It wasn’t the first time the lab had raised the legal limit in the shadows. 

The State lab also raised the legal limit when they switched from measuring alcohol blood in g/100mg to g/100ml. Since blood weighs more than water, when they switched the units, they made the legal standard about 5.5% higher than it used to be. For example, 0.076 g/100mg comes out to 0.080 when converted to g/100ml. 

Scientists must adjust for analytical errors

Jurisdictions throughout the world recognize the inherent limitations of alcohol testing. 

They do this by performing a deduction for analytical errors. Currently, Sweden subtracts 19% from the average of the two breath samples, Ireland subtracts 17.5%, and the UK subtracts 17% when the result is near the legal threshold for breath and blood. In Alabama, they report the lower of the two breath samples minus 10%. And just south of us in Iowa, a “margin of error” must be deducted before prosecuting the final result.

In breath alcohol testing, in particular, reporting a final result after making a subtraction for analytical errors makes sense due to the many inherent problems with breath alcohol testing. For example, the machine can be affected by the way you breathe prior to the test, by burping, belching, or hiccuping, or even by having a slightly elevated body temperature.

This issue was so important the world's foremost researcher on alcohol, AW Jones, issued the following statement over 30 years ago:

“I consider it essential that a deduction is made from the mean result of duplicate or triplicate determinations of BrAC or BAC. The concentration of alcohol remaining after the deduction becomes the relevant figure for prosecution in DUI trials. In Sweden, reporting the lowest result, with 99.9% confidence, is a mandatory requirement for legal purposes. This means that a suspect with a true BrAC just below a critical legal limit runs a 1 in 1000 chance of being convicted.”

The State hides uncertainty

You’d think that the most common forensic test, a breath alcohol test, would adhere to scientific standards. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The BCA allows its breath alcohol program to run outside the limits of accepted science.

Not only does the state refuse to adjust the result due to analytical errors, but they also hide the information about the machine’s uncertainty.

Good science requires that a measurement be accompanied by a clear and unambiguous statement about the uncertainty associated with the test. But, State’s breath alcohol lab refuses to comply with this. 

The State requires test subjects to request additional information about uncertainty from the lab specifically. This put the onus on the subject (or their lawyers) to obtain the information. 

But, it’s not just the breath alcohol lab that hides information. The State’s blood and urine alcohol lab will only provide the individual results of the test if specifically asked for. 

This means that if you are close to the legal limit, it is possible that one of your tests was below the legal threshold. But you’d never know about it just from looking at the final report.

Call Ramsay Law

If you’ve been labeled a criminal due to false reporting on the State’s alcohol tests, call Ramsay Law. We unturn every stone to make sure you aren’t labeled a criminal due to the State’s faulty science.