The US Supreme Court may have inadvertently given drunk drivers a free ride. In June they ruled in a 5-4 decision, the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantee “… to be confronted with the witnesses against him” is not satisfied by a sheet of paper. This means the lab technician responsible for processing your blood sample from your arrest must appear in court to discuss the results showing just how drunk you were.
Here’s the problem with this. Many crime labs which process drug and DNA samples are already heavily overburdened. The labs barely have the time to process the lab work. Technicians do not have the time to show up in court and read the lab results.
This will also increase the workload for state courts. Many drunks plea bargain, but now many might take their case to court with the hopes the technician won’t show up. Several cases have already been overturned in Virginia just because the technician could not appear to testify against the drunk. Expect more cases to get dropped as the word gets out about this technicality.
The ruling came from a case in which Luis E. Melendez-Diaz allegedly stashed cocaine in a Boston police car while he was under arrest (great idea – the police will never think to look in their own car). The drugs were sent off for analysis, and the results were entered as evidence against him. Scalia wrote Melendez-Diaz “was entitled to ‘be confronted with’ the analysts at trial.” The conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court.
(Source: Washinton Post)
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