Technicians at the Nassau County, N.Y., crime lab were found to have not followed basic crime lab procedures, meaning that either samples or equipment may have been contaminated in drug cases.
For those who were convicted of driving while intoxicated, there are issues regarding the calibration of the lab’s portable breath test. This could impact many of the DWI cases that have gone through the system, as well as those cases that are still pending.
In some of these cases, new trials have been granted because the testing completed by the lab was deemed unreliable. As a result, the crime lab has been shut down.
Nassau County may also have additional problems due to a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Court stated that if evidence of a lab test is going to be used in court, it will be necessary to have the person who performed the actual test available to testify. Scientists who are familiar with the methods used, but not present when the tests were conducted may not testify as to the meaning of the results.
While the Nassau County lab is shut down, it has been using a lab in Pennsylvania to do its testing on new samples as well as the retesting of samples from prior cases to check for errors. The ruling will force the county to bring the scientists from the out-of-state lab to testify in any trials that may be necessary.
This article originally appeared in 25 DWI Journal: Law & Science, p. 6 (September 2011).
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