Skip to comments.Supreme Court puts extra burden on crime labs
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s a good ruling. I’m surprised.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.