The State's Blood Alcohol Lab Made a HUGE Mistake
You just had 2-3 beers and got pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Your blood is drawn and measured by the State alcohol lab.
You want to know: Is it accurate?
If the blood is tested in Minnesota, the answer is easy: NO.
Why? The State uses a pipette (a syringe used to move a measured about of liquid) to move very precise amounts of blood from the collection vial and N-propanol to another vial for evaluation in a gas chromatograph. The state has decided to use uncalibrated pipettes. This is a HUGE mistake.
Let’s dive into why.
It’s all about traceability
In science, for a measurement to be accurate, it must be traceable.
A traceable measurement means you can compare it to the international scientific units of measurement, such as the gram or the liter. Laboratories must connect all their measurements back to single traceable units of measurement.
The ultimate authority for all weights and measurements is the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in France. They hold the single source of truth regarding weights and measurements throughout the world.
A person’s blood alcohol should measure the same whether it is tested in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, France, or the UK. The only way a lab can make sure its results are accurate is by calibrating all of the equipment it uses. This forms a series of unbroken links in a chain going from the measurement result, all the way back to THE standard in France.
The State made a huge blunder
The State blood/urine alcohol lab refuses to follow good lab practice. When it comes to national standards, they made a massive mistake.
The State blood/urine alcohol lab forgot to calibrate their pipette 😨!
The ANSI/ASB Standard 017 standard practices for Measurement Traceability in Forensic Toxicology clearly states (underlines added for clarity):
All pipettes, pipette diluters, automatic diluters, and syringes used for the preparation of calibrator solutions that require measurement traceability or in sample preparation (e.g. sample aliquoting and other steps that affect overall measurement uncertainty) shall be calibrated at least annually by an appropriately accredited calibration service supplier. Autosampler syringes used for sample introduction to analytical instrumentation (e.g., gas chromatograph, liquid chromatograph, or immunoassay) do not require calibration.
The above standard only excludes one thing from calibration, and that is the syringe used to inject the blood or urine into the instrument. Everything else must be calibrated -- including the pipette used for alcohol analysis.
Excuses by the State
At this point, the State is left with two options: fix its mistake or continue with business as usual.
It seems the State lab is taking the easy route to continue business as usual.
In court, the State has offered testimony from their “scientists,” about why they don’t need to calibrate their pipette. They maintain that since the sample is tested twice, on separate machines, the results are accurate.
The reasoning is idiotic (excuse my language). If the State uses the same inaccurate pipette on both occasions, it will be wrong both times.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they do make a good excuse!
The court is the final gatekeeper
The State won’t fix its errors voluntarily. I’ve pointed out other errors made by the State’s alcohol lab.
Instead of fixing their errors, they’ve tried to hide them. For example, I’ve pointed out errors in the State’s breathalyzer. They had problems with the source code, and they tried to hide them, rather than fix them.
Now, the State blood lab has lost trust. They can’t be counted on to do the right thing, even after the error has been made plain for all to see.
The final stopgap is the court system.
We’ll argue our case, but it will be up to a judge to decide. Our concern is that, too often, judges give the State a free pass when it comes to cases like these.
It’ll take courage for the judge to tell the State lab that what they’ve been doing is wrong.
Contact Ramsay Law if you’ve been a victim of injustice
At Ramsay Law, we know the science and the law. If you’ve been a victim of the State’s sloppy science, give us a call to analyze your case.
You can trust us to examine the science and get results.