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Supreme Court puts extra burden on crime labs
The Los Angeles Times ^ | June 24, 2011 | David G. Savage

Posted on 06/24/2011 5:04:06 PM PDT by Lurking Libertarian

The Supreme Court on Thursday put an extra burden on crime labs, declaring that a man accused of drunken driving has the right to demand that a lab technician testify in person about a blood test that showed he was impaired.

The 5-4 decision was the latest to extend the reach of a defendant's constitutional right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." And once again, the outcome was driven by an unusual coalition of conservative and liberal justices.

Two years ago, the court said a crime lab technician was a witness for the prosecution and, therefore, must be available to testify. In Thursday's decision, the court went a step further, saying it will not suffice to send any technician or lab analyst who can explain the testing. Rather, the prosecution must supply the same technician who conducted the blood test and signed to certify the result.

"We hold that surrogate testimony … does not meet the constitutional requirement," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court majority, which also included Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The Constitution does not permit shortcuts, the court said, and in many cases, a crime lab report is the prosecution's strongest evidence.

(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption
KEYWORDS: confrontation; crimelabs; scotus
Interesting line-up of Justices. The dissenters were Kennedy, Roberts, Breyer and Alito.
1 posted on 06/24/2011 5:04:10 PM PDT by Lurking Libertarian
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To: Lurking Libertarian

http://www.suntimes.com/6156034-417/gun-advocate-calls-mccarthys-views-nutty-from-political-hack.html


2 posted on 06/24/2011 5:06:23 PM PDT by biggredd1
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To: Lurking Libertarian

Given the numerous problems with crime lab technicians faking evidence in recent years I’d say I agree with this decision since the veracity and capabilitiy of the lab techs has been at issue in numerous successful appellate actions.


3 posted on 06/24/2011 5:07:18 PM PDT by MeganC (NO WAR FOR OIL! ........except when a Democrat's in charge.)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

Maybe they can raise the blood level standard to what it used to be, to keep out all the frivolous trials.

They could also just go back to Texas rules, where either you were driving recklessly, or you weren’t, the drinking, or non drinking was not the point.


4 posted on 06/24/2011 5:09:18 PM PDT by ansel12 (America has close to India population of 1950s, India has 1,200,000,000 people now. Quality of Life?)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

There was a time when this might bother me, but with TSA, Obama becoming our little dictator, etc. I applaud this decision. I’m tired of secrets being maintained in the name of National Security. I no longer trust my government as it presently exists.


5 posted on 06/24/2011 5:12:51 PM PDT by RIghtwardHo
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To: Lurking Libertarian

just think what this does to the traffic cameras!

not just ANY representative from the traffic camera company will do. you have to have IN court during trial the actual exact person who looked at the picture and analized the image and issued the citation.

no more guilty via representative witness.


6 posted on 06/24/2011 5:13:38 PM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

That’s a good ruling. I’m surprised.


7 posted on 06/24/2011 5:18:53 PM PDT by Pollster1 (Natural born citizen of the USA, with the birth certificate to prove it)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

It’s a burden for a state expert witness to testify? Bunk.

That’s like saying it’s a burden for cops to testify. Total bunk. Glad I am on the same side as Scalia on this one.


8 posted on 06/24/2011 5:22:13 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: Lurking Libertarian; wmfights; xzins; blue-duncan; Forest Keeper

It appears as though the Supreme Court is ready to acknowledge that there is such a document as the Constitution and that its words still hold their original meaning.

There may be hope yet. Let’s see if they read the constitution before they rule on Obamacare.


9 posted on 06/24/2011 5:37:24 PM PDT by P-Marlowe (LPFOKETT GAHCOEEP-w/o*)
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To: Secret Agent Man

The only problem is that these are not generally crime lab technicians. The are med techs from local hospitals doing these tests in the middle of their real work, trying to help sick people get better. They are not trained in court room tactics or testimony. The go into work every night and work all night and then have to get up and go to court to have a lawyer harangue them over their professional qualifications and a single test that was done 6 or more months ago.


10 posted on 06/24/2011 5:39:38 PM PDT by incredulous in PA
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To: Lurking Libertarian

This is going to mean the States will have to hire a bunch more lab technicians, as they will be spending a lot of their time in court.

I believe in my state it will mean lab technicians traveling great distances to go to court.


11 posted on 06/24/2011 5:39:38 PM PDT by Venturer
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To: longtermmemmory
just think what this does to the traffic cameras!

If you own any stock in the companies that make traffic cams, now would be a good time to sell.

But good luck finding a sucker to buy it.

12 posted on 06/24/2011 5:40:55 PM PDT by P-Marlowe (LPFOKETT GAHCOEEP-w/o*)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

In NY you get arrested for DWI and DWI % of BAC.

They will just find a way to convict you on the officers observations using cameras now.


13 posted on 06/24/2011 5:48:02 PM PDT by Munz (All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.)
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To: incredulous in PA

I still do not mind the fact that people have a right to be able to have said expert witnesses in court and see these people and cross examine them.

There are a lot of these people whose main line of business is being an expert witness.


14 posted on 06/24/2011 5:57:53 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

Good decision. The tech must have the credentials and testify under penalty of perjury. The defense is free to question the tech’s expertise and the accuracy of the test employed.


15 posted on 06/24/2011 5:58:18 PM PDT by Myrddin
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To: Secret Agent Man

Not disagreeing, my wife has testified in a few of these that actually have gone to trial. Usually a big mistake on the lawyers part. I just wanted to correct the assumption that these were state employees or police technicians. The same machines that are used to analyze blood for hospital patients is used for the DUI’s. Only the chain of custody is more stringent. Mostly it’s a giant PITA for everyone.


16 posted on 06/24/2011 6:10:18 PM PDT by incredulous in PA
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To: incredulous in PA; P-Marlowe

The Constitution is the Constitution. It says you have the right to be confronted by the witnesses against you.

That seems clear to me. If the US of A doesn’t like that part of the Constitution it is free to change it by amendment.


17 posted on 06/24/2011 6:13:42 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of It! True Supporters of our Troops PRAY for their VICTORY!)
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To: Lurking Libertarian
Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Is the information provided testifying (being used against) him?
If so, then he must have the right to confront the evidence, as well as the person presenting it.

18 posted on 06/24/2011 6:16:31 PM PDT by OneWingedShark (Q: Why am I here? A: To do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

Good decision.


19 posted on 06/24/2011 6:19:15 PM PDT by GlockThe Vote (The Obama Adminstration: The flash mob who won’t leave.)
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To: xzins
Quite frankly, I would like to see these tests moved out of the clinical setting entirely. Make it a legal test performed in a state crime lab. Then drunks could be kept out of the emergency rooms, med techs could concentrate on medicine, and the police could handle things on their end and get paid to testify in court. I might not trust the results as well, but innocent hospital employees wouldn't have to get stuck in the middle.
20 posted on 06/24/2011 6:20:13 PM PDT by incredulous in PA
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To: longtermmemmory
just think what this does to the traffic cameras!

not just ANY representative from the traffic camera company will do. you have to have IN court during trial the actual exact person who looked at the picture and analized the image and issued the citation.

no more guilty via representative witness.~ longtermmemmory

awsome!!

21 posted on 06/24/2011 6:27:02 PM PDT by antonia (A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. - Edward R. Murrow)
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To: incredulous in PA

I think you are probably right about the process. Until they change it, though, that tech and that hospital should know what they’re committing themselves to by accepting the testing job.


22 posted on 06/24/2011 6:29:59 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of It! True Supporters of our Troops PRAY for their VICTORY!)
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To: longtermmemmory

Probably not much. Tickets issued from traffic cameras are a civil, not a criminal, matter.


23 posted on 06/24/2011 6:32:18 PM PDT by jimnm
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To: longtermmemmory

More specifically, it would not apply at all because the decision only applies to criminal, not civil, trials. The decision was based on the 6th amendment’s Confrontation Clause which applies to criminal prosecutions .I browsed the decision and it appears to be confined to criminal, not civil, law.

JUSTICE GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to all but Part IV and footnote 6. The Confrontation Clause, the opinion concludes, does not permit the prosecution to introduce a forensic laboratory report containing a testimonial certification, made in order to prove a fact at a criminal trial, through the in-court testimony of an analyst who did not sign the certification or personally perform or observe the performance of the test reported in the certification.
The accused’s right is to be confronted with the analyst who made the certification, unless that analyst is unavailable at trial, and the accused had an opportunity, pretrial, to cross-examine that particular scientist.


24 posted on 06/24/2011 6:32:23 PM PDT by jimnm
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To: Lurking Libertarian

“It is not clear, however, whether most defendants will demand that lab technicians testify at their trials.”
Of course they will. Every one of them. Then when the tech doesn’t show up the case will be dumped. I agree that the court made the right decision, but it will definitely choke the court system to death. Or the DUI part of the criminal justice system will be a charge of the past in states where a blood draw rather than a breath test is the norm.


25 posted on 06/24/2011 6:32:37 PM PDT by Scotsman will be Free (11C - Indirect fire, infantry - High angle hell - We will bring you, FIRE)
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To: longtermmemmory

Probably won’t apply. Traffic tickets are usually civil. DUI is criminal.


26 posted on 06/24/2011 6:33:50 PM PDT by Scotsman will be Free (11C - Indirect fire, infantry - High angle hell - We will bring you, FIRE)
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To: incredulous in PA
Yes it is burdensome for the government to have to follow the Constitution.
The State needs to prosecute wisely.
Either follow the rules or dismiss the case.
I have been on both sides of this as an attorney.
The right to confront and cross examine is absolutely critical to getting a fair trial.
Scalia and Thomas got it right.
I'm concerned about Alito and Roberts on criminal procedure issues.
27 posted on 06/24/2011 6:36:37 PM PDT by Clump (the tree of liberty is withering like a stricken fig tree)
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To: longtermmemmory

Unfortunately, some or many states (not sure how many) have claimed that red light camera citations are a civil matter, on the idiot notion that they are dealing with property (the car) and not a person (the driver).


28 posted on 06/24/2011 6:37:53 PM PDT by TexasAg
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To: longtermmemmory
not just ANY representative from the traffic camera company will do. you have to have IN court during trial the actual exact person who looked at the picture and analized the image and issued the citation.

Unfortunately, traffic camera tickets usually fall into the civil court arena instead of criminal court. They've basically bypassed the criminal aspects of traffic violations in favor of revenue enhancement. Anyway, I don't think that this ruling has an effect on such situations. May be wrong though.

29 posted on 06/24/2011 6:38:08 PM PDT by meyer (We will not sit down and shut up.)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

Were they dissenting because it went too far or it did not go far enough?


30 posted on 06/24/2011 6:41:33 PM PDT by Raycpa
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To: incredulous in PA

Yep. That is the problem. Plus when they are sitting in the court rooom for hours someone else has to be called in on their day off to work. It is a BIG hassle.


31 posted on 06/24/2011 7:16:51 PM PDT by therut
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To: incredulous in PA

Right, I don’t think we are disagreeing. I am not necessarily saying there’s any bias or screwups either, I am just for the ability of the defendant to see their accusers or expert witnesses against them, in court. Especially so if they are state workers or government workers or contracted by the state.

There’s always a chance a lab is being run poorly or there is some hack coroner running a shoddy ship. In many places a coroner doesn’t have to be a doctor and only gets the job because they win an election. Stuff like that. Or finding a private lab contracted to do work is doing crap work to cut costs or has a bunch of people not qualified to do work, doing their work.


32 posted on 06/24/2011 7:59:52 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

What a bizarre mix making up the majority. This seems to be an obvious decision. Amazing to me that it was only 5-4.


33 posted on 06/24/2011 8:13:49 PM PDT by newzjunkey
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To: Clump

I am an attorney as well. The older I get, the more liberal I get on crim law matters. I know some freepers will not agree, but the govt needs to be checked.


34 posted on 06/24/2011 8:14:04 PM PDT by GlockThe Vote (The Obama Adminstration: The flash mob who won’t leave.)
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To: GlockThe Vote

I don’t think that makes you or us liberal.
My dream justice protects the rights of the accused, and rigidly holds the line on federalism and the commerce clause.
Thomas has the latter down pat. Scalia the former. So a hybrid of the two would be just right.
The Raisch case really soured me on Scalia, but he is still very good 90% of the time.
Thomas has never seen an illegal search, so I don’t count on him in these criminal procedure cases.
I was pleased to see he joined this opinion.
I guess Roberts and Alito will join the club after they finally see the out of control police state at it’s worst.
Hopefully it’s not too late by then.


35 posted on 06/24/2011 8:29:09 PM PDT by Clump (the tree of liberty is withering like a stricken fig tree)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

Sounds like the right decision to me. I’d be interested to read Roberts and Alito’s reasoning for their dissent. Off the top it sounds like the sort of thing they would’ve agreed with.


36 posted on 06/24/2011 8:46:37 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us... one chance in three. More tea?)
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>> Interesting line-up of Justices.

Indeed. Glad Scalia and Thomas were on board.

While I imagine most cited for drunk driving were probably drunk at the time, this automated process of charging and prosecuting drivers is way out of line.

No, I don’t have the answers...


37 posted on 06/24/2011 8:54:03 PM PDT by Gene Eric (*** Jesus ***)
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To: GlockThe Vote

>> The older I get, the more liberal I get on crim law matters.

Preferably Libertarian than Liberal.


38 posted on 06/24/2011 8:55:36 PM PDT by Gene Eric (*** Jesus ***)
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To: Gene Eric

True.


39 posted on 06/24/2011 9:00:25 PM PDT by GlockThe Vote (The Obama Adminstration: The flash mob who won’t leave.)
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To: Lurking Libertarian

I agree with the decision. DUI cases are no different from any other criminal charge so the charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m sure there is a lot of incompetence in criminal labs.


40 posted on 06/25/2011 6:23:30 AM PDT by New Jersey Realist (Congress doesn't care a damn about "we the people")
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To: P-Marlowe; Lurking Libertarian; wmfights; xzins; blue-duncan
Let’s see if they read the constitution before they rule on Obamacare.

Amen. Once they find the mandate unconstitutional (or anything else) THAT'S when Scott Brown's election will really mean something. He can vote RINO all day long but he still could be the linchpin that brings Obamacare down.

41 posted on 06/27/2011 12:27:43 AM PDT by Forest Keeper ((It is a joy to me to know that God had my number, before He created numbers.))
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To: Lurking Libertarian

“unusual coalition”? Barf, conservative justices fight hard for WRITTEN constitutional rights, not made up ones.


42 posted on 06/27/2011 7:24:32 AM PDT by stan_sipple
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To: stan_sipple
“unusual coalition”? Barf, conservative justices fight hard for WRITTEN constitutional rights, not made up ones.

It was an unusual coalition because some of the Court's conservatives were in the majority and some in the dissent, and the same for the Court's liberals.

43 posted on 06/27/2011 2:33:34 PM PDT by Lurking Libertarian (Non sub homine, sed sub Deo et lege)
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