The whole is not always the same as its parts

You are going to buy a new home.  The house is 2000 square feet on a 3/4 acre lot.  You hire Rich (the termite inspector) to check it out before you buy. After all, no one wants to buy a house with termites. 

  • Good news!  The house passed.  No termites.  Thus, you buy the house.
  • Bad news!  A month after the sale closes you discover - termites.  

What?  How could this happen?

 
You go back and look a little deeper in the method of inspection Rich relied upon.  You find out his methodology was to only check "one square inch" of the floor in the house.  When he did not find anything wrong within the "one inch" he assumed everything else was also termite free.
 

How do you feel now?
 
A part of something does not always represent the whole. Determining how many termites are in "one square inch" of a house does not really answer the question whether you have a termite problem.
 
The termite inspector committed what logicians call the all things are equal fallacy.  This occurs when when it is assumed, without justification, that conditions have remained the same at different times and places.
 
The same danger is present when attempting a forensic measurement.  For example, in a typical DUI case where a blood sample is taken, the lab will test less than a M&M size sample of blood.  However, in Arizona the legal definition of an alcohol concentration is grams per 100 micro-liters. Translation, the legal definition of an alcohol concentration requires multiplying the results of the "one inch" by about 1000 (assuming the M&M is about 100 micro-liters).
 
The danger is assuming the rest of 1000 micro-liters (or 100 milliliters) has a proportional amount of ethanol in it.  Small errors multiplied by 1000 can easily mislead you to believe that a person's alcohol concentration is above a legal limit when it is not.
 
Like the termite inspection, it is up to the crime laboratory to prove their justification for assuming using such a tiny amount below the legal definition of an alcohol concentration answers the question - is the person above the legal limit?  After all, no one wants termites...or people being wrongfully convicted.
 
 

The Supreme Court Splits the baby in the Scottsdale Crime Lab Cases.

The highly anticipated Arizona Supreme Court opinion regarding the Scottsdale Crime Lab scandal was issued yesterday.   In a very Solomon like decision, the Court granted both sides some relief.

 

The decision contains a lot of legal nuance requiring explanation. Here is a summary and a few thoughts:

 

Admissible Is Not The Same As Reliable

 

While the Court decided the blood alcohol measurements are admissible - they did not hold they are reliable. There is a big difference.  As a matter of fact, the Court expressed its concerns with the Scottsdale Crime Lab's "shaky" evidence. 

 

The Court merely held the prosecution may present the blood alcohol measurements to a jury and argue they are reliable.  The jury will make the final decision.

 

This standard is similar to a finding there was probable cause for a person's case to proceed to trial.  However, at trial, the same evidence will now need to exceed a much higher threshold - beyond reasonable doubt.

 

What Effect Did Yesterday's Decision Have On The Lower Courts' Rulings?

 

There were two lower court rulings: (1) the trial court's ruling suppressing the evidence; and (2) the Court of Appeals ruling reversing.

 
The Arizona Supreme Court vacated the relevant portions of the Court of Appeals decision and the trial court's ruling.  It then issued a new opinion which provided additional guidance on the admissibility of scientific evidence in a jury trial.
 
The Legal Boundaries Of The Supreme Court's Decision.
 
A few years ago, Arizona adopted something called the Daubert standard for the admission of scientific evidence. This was reflected by an amendment to Rule 702 of the Arizona Rules of Evidence.
 
The Court's holding here was limited to only one of the requirements of Rule 702.  Specifically the ruling is limited to subsection (d) of Rule 702, which focuses on the reliable application of a methodology to the facts.
 
What Did Each Side Get Out Of The Supreme Court's Decision?
 
The prosecution avoids mass dismissals of cases where they claim a driver was impaired, but now they have to persuade a jury in every case that the crime lab's forensic malpractice does not matter.
 
The defense is primarily benefited in two ways: (1) the right to present all the evidence of the crime lab's malpractice is firmly established; and presumably (2) the right to obtain evidence of software malfunctions and errors from the crime laboratory also appears to be affirmed. 
 
The Court's acknowledgement that the evidence presented at the 17 day pretrial hearing was both relevant and admissible at trial, implicitly holds that the defense has a right to this evidence in discovery.  This is a significant change.
 
The majority of the evidence presented to the trial court by the defense was not provided by the prosecution.  It was obtained through the collaboration of the defense community and through requests made pursuant to Arizona's public records laws.  
 
Moreover, before the pretrial hearing, there was a court order requiring the Scottsdale Crime Lab to provide the defense with all the data produced in 2011.  They were given a significant amount of time to comply, but did not even attempt to gather the information. Instead, the prosecution appealed the order, and the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed.  
 
The prosecution convinced the appellate court that the defense was merely on a "fishing expedition."  However, in hindsight, it turns out there were some pretty big fish in the pond. We can only imagine what we would have found if the yesterday's opinion had been in place at that time.
 
The holding also appears to clear the way for the defense to present a jury with evidence of the hundreds of catastrophic software malfunctions resulting in unreliable and misleading evidence.  The jury may now discover, that for years, the lab hid this damming evidence.  They may hear of internal crime lab emails from analysts admitting to deleting "incorrect results." 
 
And yes, prior to this decision, the prosecution vigorously argued the jury should not hear this evidence.
 
Does This Decision End The Debate Over The Scottsdale Crime Lab's Forensic Malpractice Issues?
 
Nope.
 
The issues will continue to be litigated - one case at a time. However, we now have some new rules of the road that empower the defense to present their case.  
 
In Sum
 
...the decision means we can't shop for justice at Costco. While there will not be a bulk dismissal of consolidated cases, we still get to present these issues one case at a time...jury by jury. 
 
This could take a while.
 
RELATED:
 
 

Arizona Supreme Court: Scottsdale Crime Lab Update

Tomorrow around 10:00 a.m. the Arizona Supreme Court will issue its decision regarding the Scottsdale Crime Lab.  Here are some of the new stories about the case of STATE v HON. BERNSTEIN/HERMAN:

I will provide a summary of the Supreme Court's opinion following its release.

Lawrence Koplow

Measuring and Counting

 MEASURING

Measuring is the assignment of a number, and all the uncertainties of that of that number, to something.  The purpose of assigning a number is to give meaning to the object measured.

  • Uncertainty: A bag placed upon a scale shows its weight to be 41 pounds.  If the bag must be less than 50 pounds, then the number produced by the scale indicates it meets this requirement.  However, you must know how far from its true value might the 41 pound number be off by?  Uncertainty is the amount of doubt (e.g. the amount of possible variation) you should expect that number might be off.
  • Fit for Purpose: Assume there are two scales.  The same bag weighing 41 pounds is place on both scales.  However, it was determined that Scale A produces numbers that can be off by as much as 30 pounds.  It was also determined that the number produced by Scale B merely off by as much as 3 pounds.  Knowing the amount of uncertainty contained in the number helps distinguish counting from measuring.  Knowing the uncertainty allows you determine if the measurement is fit for the purpose of determine if the object exceeds 50 pounds.

Measuring relies upon estimation.  The choice of data, the methodologies employed, and level of quality measures used tells you how confident you can be in the estimation.  Once you have a reliable estimation of how close a number may be (or not be) to the true value, you can make informed decision as to what purposes the number can be used - and not used.  

 

COUNTING

Counting is not the same as measuring.  However, the two are often confused.  Counting is usually a technique within a measuring process (methodology).  Counting can result in an exact number.  However, measurement will never claim to represent a true value. Measurements are merely estimations.

Counting an exact amount of something is often not possible or practical.  The thing you are intending to measure (the measurand), the matrix it is found in, or the level of accuracy required may make counting impossible.   Thus a system is needed to provide a reliable estimation which you can rely upon.  

Some things to take into account when making an estimation:

  • Distinguishing: Some molecules are so similar to others that it is often impossible continuously distinguish them from each other.  Thus, they cannot be easily counted.
  • Location: Some substances are contained in places we cannot practically enter to count them.  The best way to know how much alcohol is affecting a person's brain at a particular time would be to take a sample of brain tissue.  However, society has not yet determined such a procedure falls outside the protections of a person's 4th Amendment rights.
  • Gas Chromatographs: The results of a gas chromatograph are often used to determine whether a person's alcohol concentration is above a legal limit in DUI cases.  However, the machine does not measure a person's blood alcohol concentration.  If properly used, the machine merely counts the number ethanol molecules in a gas portion of a headspace vial.  Thus, it indirectly counts a microscopic amount ethanol from a tiny sample.  

A measurement based upon a machine's indirect count of a substance results from combining it with algorithms, numerous assumptions, and historical data regarding the past performance of the machine (and software) used in the process.  This is known as an uncertainty calculation.

In this manner, measuring requires much more than counting.  Measuring requires more than merely assigning a number to an object.  More importantly, one can assign a number to an object but not create a measurement.  When this occurs it is not a measurement.  It is a misrepresentation.

 

Counting is what you do to get a number.  Measuring is what you do if you want to know the truth about the number.

Scottsdale Crime Lab: The Supreme Court's Statement of Issues

Today at 11:00 a.m. the Arizona Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding whether to reinstate a trial court's finding that - blood alcohol measurements created by the Scottsdale Crime Lab are unreliable.  You can read a history of this litigation by clicking here.

A case being selected by the Supreme Court for review is a rare event.  Simple math shows it is unlikely that any particular case will be reviewed by the Arizona Supreme Court.   The Court receives a substantial amount of “Petitions” to review lower court decisions, but it only selects a small percentage of them each year.  However, because the issues in this case (it is actually a consolidation of 11 cases) will have wide-ranging consequences, it was an ideal case for the Court to review.  The final ruling by the Court, regardless of who prevails, will likely affect how scientific evidence will be handled by Arizona courts for years to come.

While both parties have their own opinions as to what the key issues are, the Court will provide a summary and statement of the issues from their perspective prior to the oral argument.  Last week, as expected, the Court issued its written statement.  Below are the issues as stated in the Court’s summary:

 

1. Did the Court err by holding that Rule 702(d) challenges are excluded from judicial gatekeeping scrutiny under Arizona law?

 

2. Did the Court err in using the accuracy of the results as the criteria for a gatekeeping analysis instead of using the trustworthiness of the methodology used to generate the results?

 

3. Did the Court err in substituting its own judgment for the trial court’s without finding that the trial court’s decision constituted an abuse of discretion?

 

After reading this statement of the issues, one could jump to a conclusion from the way the issues are framed, that the Court is leaning in a particular the direction.  A word of caution – no one knows how the court is leaning.  The Court’s final opinion could easily list a different set of issues.

Today’s oral argument is being held at Arizona State University Law School.  The argument is open to the public and starts promptly at 11:00 am.  Everyone is welcome to attend – regardless of which side of the argument you are on.

The Scottsdale Crime Lab cases will be reviewed by the Arizona Supreme Court

The Arizona Supreme Court has decided to review the Court of Appeals' (COA) ruling regarding whether Scottsdale DUI results can be trusted.  

Our ongoing legal battle over the defective software used by the Scottsdale Crime Lab (SCL) to measure BAC levels begins its final stage.  The Supreme Court granted our request to review the COA's decision permitting prosecutors to rely upon the measurements generated by this software as a basis for a DUI conviction. 

 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Over three years ago a few chromatograms (a graphical representation of a blood alcohol measurement) escaped the Scottsdale crime lab (SCL).  It was something we had never seen before. The floodgates of evidence showing forensic malpractice soon opened.  

We learned, that for several years, the SCL had known of serious defects in the software used to measure BACs.  These malfunctions include assigning an incorrect result with the incorrect person (i.e. John gets Fred's result).  No one in the lab had the expertise to explain why this was occurring, or how to "fix" it.  According to an internal email we obtained from the SCL, they "buried" this from the rest of us.

Even after the defense brought this to light, the Prosecution continued to prosecute the public using this unreliable software.  The penalties for those convicted include mandatorily incarceration and significant monetary fines (a portion of which the crime lab receives).  They are currently still using these defective measurements to incarcerate people.

 

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

There were two primary venues for these debates: 

 

(1) Superior Court; and 

 

(2) Scottsdale City Court.  

 

The Superior Court (felony cases) is where these rulings originated.  The City of Scottsdale courts took a different approach.  That story will be addressed in a separate post.  In the Superior Court, the main case is State v. Herman (on appeal titled In Re Bernstein).  There were two challenges in "Herman" that ended up in the COA.  

 

Herman #1 (Re: Discovery) 

Because we only had access to the initial documents that appear to have been allowed out of the SCL by accident, we did not know the scope of the problem.  

We convinced two Superior Court Commissioners to hold a joint hearing.  They agreed with our arguments and issued an order to produce all chromatograms from 2011.  The Court also gave the Lab almost two months to provide them.  The deadline came and went.  The SCL admitted they did not even attempt to comply with the order.

We filed a Motion for Contempt.  The prosecution filed a Special Action asking the COA to reverse the order.  The morning before the contempt hearing, the COA stayed everything.   A few months later...

  • Result - COA reversed 

We did not get the data.  Today, the scope of the malfunctions still remains unknown. 

 

Herman #2 (Re: Reliability) 

After the COA's ruling, we requested a Daubert (reliability) hearing with the trial court.  This would be Arizona's first substantive Daubert hearing (fortunately, the evidence Rules changed in 2012 to permit such a hearing).   Combined, it lasted almost nine (9) months.  To our surprise, we ended up getting material information in the Daubert hearing (Herman #2) that we did not even think to request in Herman #1. 

At the same time, the Arizona Republic started to investigate our claims.  Through their public records requests (and later our own) a treasure trove of damming evidence was obtained.  

At the hearing, SCL personnel were testifying they understood the issues and put forth an “all was well” message.  However, in contrast to their testimony, the Arizona Republic obtained internal emails, that told a much different story than “all is well.”  Their "private" communications showed the court that the SCL personnel testifying, were less than forthcoming about the severity of the problems and their ability to comprehend them.

The combination of SLC personnel’s tainted testimony, and the testimony our forensic experts (including an independent forensic toxicologist, a certified quality assurance lab auditor, a and forensic software engineer), presented a powerful case that the SCL’s measurements and supporting testimony were not trustworthy. 

 

Arizona Court of Appeals 

As in Herman #1, the prosecution turned to the court of appeals for relief. 

Again, as in Herman #1, it was provided.  

  • Result - COA Reversed.

 

Arizona Supreme Court

Over a year ago, we filed a Petition with the Arizona Supreme Court requesting that they: 

 

(1) review the court of appeals decision; 

 

(2) and reinstate the trial court's ruling.

 

A few weeks ago, the Arizona Supreme Court decided to review the matter.

 

WHAT'S NEXT.

The Court's decision merely means they granted part one of our request: they will hear the case. They have set oral argument on February 17, 2015 at 11:00 am.  It will be a road game for the Court, as it will be held at ASU Law School.  The oral argument is open to the public, but it is expected to be a full house.  If you want to attend, get there early.

 

Lawrence Koplow

You have a bandwidth problem

An analyst from a crime lab testifies that a defendant, who is charged with DUI, has a blood alcohol concentration of .120.  Despite the legal requirements that the state must prove the test is trustworthy, most jurors have made a blink judgement the that test is correct.  As is often the case, the appearance of science is a powerful tool of persuasion.  This is true  even when the opinion is based upon junk science.
 
Here, despite the claims of the analyst and unbeknownst to the jury, the test result was done using unreliable equipment relying on defective software.  Your challenge: undo the jury's initial judgments, demonstrate the analyst is too biased and lacking the qualifications to understand the severity of the equipment's defects, and show the result can't be trusted.  This is no small task.
 
This task will take time.  It requires a thorough understanding of the many underlying scientific disciplines involved.  Adequately educating the jury will require information from several different sources.  Each piece of evidence will present a different evidentiary challenge.  In short, beyond the inherent difficulties of such cases, you also have a bandwidth problem.
 
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time.  DUI trials have time and evidentiary limitations.  There are not intended to be semester long science classes.  There are practical realities inhibiting you from properly educating a jury with the knowledge they need to debunk these unsound claims.  If left unaddressed, a court may not even recognize this bandwidth dilemma.
 
Consider the problem in the following terms.  A presentation that does not reach the audience persuades no one.  If Netflix creates next years best new drama, but there is not enough bandwidth to stream it, then what was the point of creating it.  No one pays a subscription fee to see a "buffering" message.  Quality is meaningless without bandwidth.
 
Being right is does not convince a jury without an adequate opportunity to present it to a jury.   In these cases, you don't have a right or wrong problem - you have a bandwidth problem.  Accordingly, neglecting the bandwidth argument can be fatal.  If you don't sufficiently address this issue, then no one may hear how right you are.

How did you get that number?

If you are making a decision based upon a measurement, then you have two choices.

 

One, you can simply accept any number a machine produces as true; or

 

Two, you can ask “how did you get that number?”

 

The choice you make should be based upon how important the decision is that  you’re basing the measurement upon.  If you just want to know how hot it is outside, a twenty-year-old thermometer, combined with stepping outside will probably do.  However, if the measurement is critical to an important outcome, then you need to ask, and answer, the question how did you get the number?

 

A critical measurement is a measurement where, the result of an important analysis, is dependent upon the measurement. A measurement is critical if an incorrect measurement could place people in danger.  If a scientist measured the wrong amount of a drug when making a pill, then it could harm someone – that is a critical measurement. 

 

If a lab employee measures the wrong amount of alcohol in your system in a DUI case, then it could result in an unwarranted prison sentence – that is also a critical measurement.  

 

Related Posts

 

What warrants a warrant?

After the Supreme Court decided the case of Missouri v. McNeely, the question of when a warrant is required, before law enforcement may draw a person's blood became more interesting to say the least.  On one side of the issue was the position that a blood alcohol concentrations is constantly changing, thus, there is a justification for law enforcement to bypass the traditional warrant requirement.

The contrary, and as it turns out the prevailing position, is that our Constitution does not allow law enforcement unfettered discretion to decided if they can stick a needle in your arm without a warrant (i.e. probable cause presented to a judge who issues a warrant).  The reality of modern technology is that a telephonic warrant can be obtained in about 15 minutes for most cases.  Accordingly, the exigent circumstances reasoning for bypassing the warrant requirement is unsound.  As the U.S. Supreme Court stated in their rejection of such a per se rule in DUI cases:

But it does not follow that we should depart from careful case-by-case assessment of exigency and adopt the categorical rule proposed by the State and its amici.  In those drunk-driving investigations where police officers can reasonably obtain a warrant before a blood sample can be drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search, the Fourth Amendment mandates that they do so. See McDonald v. United States, 335 U.S. 451, 456, 69 S.Ct. 191, 93 L.Ed 153 (1948).

Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. at 1555 (2013).

Is it really so surprising that what warrants a warrant is what is reasonable under the circumstances?

The anatomy of a gas chromatograph

 

The results produced by a gas chromatograph are usually the difference between innocence and guilt in a DUI case.  The prosecution’s purported blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is typically the “end-all be-all” of their case. Let’s take a look at how this machine creates such a critical measurement.

Big Pictures Thoughts

  • If done properly, gas chromatography is a reliable way to measure the amount of blood in an alcohol sample.  However, automobiles are also reliable, but there are still thousands of car wrecks every day.  There is no presumption of reliability simply because a gas chromatograph was used.
  • The measurement process has both human components and machine components.  All steps in the process must be done correctly for the measurement to be trusted.
  • The goal of is to produce a measurement, which is both accurate and reliable.

General Principles

  • Gas chromatography is an indirect measurement.  The machine does not test liquid portion of a blood sample.  In headspace gas chromatography, the machine converts substances to a gas, and then it must separate the different types of molecules in the sample.  After separation, a microscopic amount of the gas is measured by software.
  • The machine must demonstrate it is able to separate different types of molecules before it can measure them.  If it cannot properly separate different categories of molecules, then its measurements may be artificially higher.
  • Gas chromatography is done in manner like a production line.  Multiple samples (usually over 100 vials) are being processed in a “batch.”  It is essential to safeguard against the wrong information being assigned to the wrong sample.

Vocabulary

  • Gas chromatograph - a machine that separates molecules, and then measures, the amount of the various components in a sample.
  • Gas Chromatography - the scientific process performed by a gas chromatograph.
  • Chromatogram – the graphical representation of the data produced by the gas chromatograph.  This is where you will find the final measurement.  A chromatogram is the machine’s conclusion.

The Human Part

The measurement process starts long before the gas chromatograph is actually turned on.  The blood must be collected, identified, stored and transferred properly before the sample is put into the gas chromatograph.  Even the best machines cannot account for, or identify, that a sample has been corrupted.  The principle of garbage in garbage out must be kept in mind.  That is, incorrect (or poor quality) input will always produce wrong output.  

Human are also responsible for teaching the machine a specific alcohol concentration.  The machine does not come out of the box knowing any specific alcohol concentration.  Typically a lab will purchase approximately four (4) different alcohol concentrations from a vendor.  For example, .01, .10, .20, .40 are often used to calibrate the machine. 

These samples are put into the machine and the analyst programs the machine’s software to use these values.  If the analyst tells the machine a sample is a .40 but it is really a .30, the machine cannot tell the difference.  Ensuring a calibrator is what it purports to be is known as traceability.

The Machine Part

The machine starts its analysis after a small portion (less than the size of the a single M&M) of each blood sample is put into a headspace vial. The headspace vials (usually over 100) containing the samples are loaded into a part of the machine called the autosampler.  

The samples are then heated (in a headspace tube) forcing molecules in the liquid portion of the sample to rise.  After the molecules are vaporized, a needle punctures the top of the headspace vial and extracts a microscopic portion of the gas above the liquid.

These vaporized molecules are pushed through long thin columns by a carrier gas (hydrogen or helium).  These thin columns have a chemical coating inside them designed to interact with the molecules passing through them.  The carrier gas moves at a constant pressure.  This results in different molecules in the gas to group together (e.g. ethanol with ethanol, methanol with methanol).  Each molecule group, such as ethanol, has a unique rate of speed.  This accounts for the separation of the each substance in the columns.

After each molecule group is pushed out of the column, they will be pushed to a detector.  The time when is substance exits the column is called the time it elutes.  The detector’s software has been programmed to identify different substances by the time they elute from the column.  The Flame Ionization Detector, as the name implies, then burns each molecule group and then measures how much is burned.

The software gathers the “raw data” and then processes it.  The “process data” is graphically represented in something called a chromatogram.    The measurement is found here.

The above summary just scratches the surface of the measurement process using a gas chromatograph.  If you are going to rely upon the measurement produced by this technique, then every step in process (both the human and machine) must be shown to have been done correctly.

The eyes have it

At the side of the road, law enforcement routinely makes DUI arrests based upon results of a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. The underlying premise of the test is: you drink enough alcohol, and then you eyes will show HGN.

Alcohol, however, is not the sole cause of HGN. In State v. Horn, the court recognized the following causes or possible causes of HGN:

  • problems with the inner ear labyrinth;
  • irrigating the ears with warm or cold water;
  • influenza; streptococcus infection;
  • vertigo;
  • measles;
  • syphilis;
  • arteriosclerosis;
  • Korchaff's syndrome;
  • brain hemorrhage;
  • epilepsy;
  • hypertension;
  • motion sickness;
  • sunstroke;
  • eye strain;
  • eye muscle fatigue;
  • glaucoma;
  • changes in atmospheric pressure;
  • consumption of excessive amounts of caffeine;
  • excessive exposure to nicotine; aspirin;
  • circadian rhythms;
  • acute head trauma;
  • chronic head trauma;
  • some prescription drugs; tranquilizers,
  • pain medication,
  • anti-convulsant medicine;
  • barbiturates;
  • disorders of the vestibular apparatus and brain stem;
  • cerebellum dysfunction;
  • heredity;
  • diet;
  • toxins;
  • exposure to solvents;
  • extreme chilling;
  • eye muscle imbalance;
  • lesions;
  • continuous movement of the visual field past the eyes; and
  • antihistamine use.

 

Read the "Warning Label" of your blood test

When should you trust a blood test result that claims to measures an alcohol concentration?  Start by reading the test's "Warning Label."  Here is an explanation on my legalcoffee blog.

A reported result versus a complete result

 

In DUI cases, a machine called a gas chromatograph is often used to measure an alcohol concentration in a blood sample.   The measurement, which the machine prints at the end of the process, is called a reported result.  We are finally at the point in Arizona, where courts are starting to recognize that merely providing a reported result is not sufficient evidence.  The law is coming to the same realization that science did many years ago: a reported result from a machine is an incomplete measurement.

A complete measurement includes more than just a reported result.  As a matter of fact, simply providing a reported result is often misleading.  A reported result is only complete when accompanied by a “statement of its uncertainty.” See NIST Technical Note 1297, 1994 Edition.  No measurement is perfect.  The result of any measurement is only an estimation of its value.  A “statement of uncertainty” is the range of doubt that exists regarding a measurement.

A complete test result, must also include:

  • a “Range of Uncertainty” and;
  • “Confidence Interval.” 

To illustrate, let’s assume that a blood test result was .100.  Let’s also assume, based on a review of the machine’s prior performance, a “range of uncertainty” was determined to be ± 5%, with a “confidence interval” of 100%.  This means, the reported result could be as low as a .095 and as high as a .105.  Moreover, this also means, if the same blood sample were repeatedly tested on this equipment, the result would only be outside of the ± 5% range 1 out of a million times.  If this statistic were true, this would certainty be a reported result that you could trust.

On the other hand, what if for the same reported result of .100 the range was ± 30%, with a confidence interval of 50%?  Here, this means the reported result could be as low as .070 or as high as .130.   Furthermore, if you continued to test this sample on the same equipment, 300,000 times of out of a million, the reported result would be outside the range stated above.

When comparing the two complete test results, you can see that providing a mere reported result does not tell us the whole story.    Merely telling us the reported result can actually tell us a very misleading story.  Science will not accept incomplete measurements.  Why should the law?

 

Scottsdale DUI Blood Tests Ruled Unreliable

In July of 2012, I asked a member of the Scottsdale Crime Lab for an interview about some rumors. She refused and told me to get a court order.  At that time I was surprised.  Why would she refuse to do a routine interview? 

 Today we know the answer. 

Today we now know that: (1) the Scottsdale Crime Lab’s blood testing equipment is unreliable; and (2) the testimony of the crime lab personnel is not trustworthy.  Don’t take my word for it – just read the court’s opinion by clicking here.

Blood Testing Is About More Than A Machine

In DUI cases, an accurate blood test result requires more than just the blood tester to be working properly. A reliable test results requires more than than what the machine (the blood tester) provides.  As shown below, see the machine is just a fraction of the process need to obtain an accurate and reliable result.

Usually the government only puts safeguard in place to prevent machine errors.  Consequently the majority of the blood testing process will go unchecked and subject to human error.       

 

The Dirty Little Secret (of Arizona DUI First Offense)

Here is the math used in Arizona: INCREASED JAIL + DUI PROBLEM = REDUCED DUI PROBLEM.  It makes perfect sense, right.  Who would risk more than a month in jail for a few drinks.  

Apparently - lots of people.  Maybe even more people now, than when the penalties were previously lower.  Unfortunately the State's math is flawed.  Let me give you some anecdotal evidence.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in an arraignment with a client waiting for our case to be called.  Before the judge started calling cases he told the packed court room about Arizona's DUI penalties.  After going through the sentencing schemes he also made the following disclosure in open court. He stated, these DUI penalties have become harsher and harsher ever since he had been practicing law (and by grey color of his remaining hair that appeared to be a long time). "However, my courtroom still stays full." He went on to say that "we all know" the new DUI penalties have not reduced the number of DUI cases but it is the law.  "Fair or not these are the laws I am required to follow."

Well it is not everyday a judge, in open court, makes such a candid admission.  Moreover, the judge's speech was absolutely correct about the Arizona DUI laws.  Those of who are involved in Arizona DUI cases, "all know" the math is wrong.  We all know, law enforcement included, raising penalties does not reduce the number DUI cases.  One reason is the real consequence of a DUI is not jail, but taking someone's life.  If that is not enough to stop someone from driving impaired, then long jail terms that no person really knows the specifics of (until after they are charged), certainly will not have a great impact.

However, I have an idea of what may work.  In part two of this post I make my case for how I believe we should address the problem.  That is, if we are serious about solving it - which I hope we are.


Lawrence Koplow

The DUI With No Driving - Part 1

 

 

DUI stands for driving under the influence. However, years ago Arizona, like many other states, changed its DUI laws to cover situations where the person was not actually driving. Instead, to be guilty of DUI, a person just needed to be "controlling" a vehicle. The classic example is the vehicle stopped in the middle of the road and the driver is passed out drunk. That is an obvious case of someone controlling a car without driving.

However, there are many situations, where it is not so obvious that a person is "actually controlling" a car. There has been a growing debate regarding as to what it means to be "controlling" a car in a DUI case. For example, people can legally use their car as a shelter after they have been drinking alcohol.  Someone who sleeps in their properly parked car after getting drunk is not "controlling" their car for purposes of Arizona DUI law. However, if they put the key in the ignition to turn on the air condition, does that action create a DUI? The Arizona Supreme Court Case recently attempted to end the debate in the case of State v. Zaragoza.

Zaragoza was convicted on an Aggravated DUI charge after he was found at an apartment complex:

•    Sitting in his car
•    The engine was off
•    His hand on the wheel, and
•    The keys in the ignition,
•    Alcohol in his system

Zaragoza claimed that he had no intention to drive, but only to sleep in his car. He claims the reason the keys were in the ignition was to roll down the window, and turn on the radio. 

He appealed his conviction based on the argument that the jury was provided inappropriate instructions regarding the law of actual physical control of vehicle.

The Arizona DUI statute does not define what “actual physical control” of a vehicle is, and there have been varying types of jury instructions on the meaning of this phrase through-out the courts. 

The Arizona Supreme Court took this case, and attempted to clarify the law’s definition. They stated that actual physical control has nothing to do with the intent of the driver to move or use the vehicle, but the actual and imminent danger to the him/her self or others at the time alleged to have control. This means that all facts must be looked at together in order to appropriately determine if there was an actual or imminent danger.

The Court also held that in this case, the instructions did not mislead the jury, but that they may have misstated the law. Because of the variations in instruction, and the result of Zaragoza's case, the Arizona Supreme Court decided to provide a new jury instruction for future cases.

The new instruction will be published in Part II of the blog post.

If you need assistance or additional information about an Arizona DUI case, please contact the Koplow Law Firm Online or by phone at (602) 494-3444.

Lawrence Koplow

 

Scottsdale DUI: Home Detention Is Here (Almost)

I was in the Scottsdale City Court yesterday when I heard a Judge discussing the much anticipated Home Detention Program.  It appears that they have finally implemented the program.  Here are the minimum qualifications based on the information I was given at court.

  • The date of your offense must be after May 27, 2010; and
  • You must start your self-surrender date on or after October 1, 2010

There may be some exceptions to the time restrictions if your attorney can demonstrate a serious medical condition. Since the program is so new (as a matter of fact, several of the court clerks did not even know it had be approved yesterday) I am sure there will be some additional details and restrictions.  In addition, keep in mind: (1) admittance into the program is not automatic.  The judges have already hinted that not everyone will be receiving the benefit of this program; (2) there will still be an initial term of jail for anyone accepted into the program.  Thus, this program is for lengthier terms of incarceration.

If you need assistance or additional information about a Scottsdale DUI case, please contact the Koplow Law Firm Online or by phone at (602) 494-3444.

Lawrence Koplow

 

Scottsdale DUI: Home Detention Update

While the City of Scottsdale has approved a home detention program, it has not released any of the program's details. The most anticipated detail is the start date. As of yesterday, the start date has not been released. There has been speculation that it may not start until the end of summer. However, no one really knows. As soon as the details become available I will post them here.

Scottsdale DUI: Changes in the Scottsdale Courts

What is going on in Scottsdale?  In the last 30 days two judges have been let go by the City Counsel.  What is coming next? 

No Consent, No Warrant, No Blood

Some things in life seem obvious. It is hotter in the summer. It is colder in the winter. The government must get a warrant to stick a needle in your arm before they forcibly take your blood. However, this last presumption has not been so obvious in Arizona.

For years in Arizona, attorneys have been arguing that law enforcement must get a warrant before taking your blood during a DUI investigation. Unless, of course, the person “expressly consents” to the blood draw. However, many Arizona courts have held that, under Arizona law, we should "imply" your consent to the blood test. Thus, there is no need to ask for your consent, nor to get a warrant before taking blood.

In most DUI cases, officers ask the person suspected of DUI if they will consent to the blood draw. The officer will explain that if you refuse to give consent, a one (1) year license revocation will be triggered. Moreover, the officer will likely inform you that they will also get a telephonic warrant, in a matter of minutes, and forcibly take your blood. Consequently, the majority of people do give consent to the blood draw. This scenario is perfectly legal.

However, every year I see a number cases where law enforcement just takes the person’s blood without asking for consent. They merely say "give me your arm" and take the blood. Most experienced DUI officers will not engage in such conduct. Yet this situation keeps occurring. And until now, many courts have upheld the officer's actions.

On September 1, 2009, the Arizona Court of Appeals stated the obvious.  They held that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant to take a DUI suspects blood - unless the person “expressly agrees” to have their blood drawn. The Court reasoned:

Arizona’s Implied Consent Law, A.R.S. § 28-1321, requires the State to obtain a warrant before drawing a blood sample from a DUI suspect unless the suspect “expressly agree[s]” to submit to the blood test. A.R.S. § 28-1321(B), (D) (Supp. 2005).

We hold that the “express agreement” required by the statute must be affirmatively and unequivocally manifested by words or conduct, and may not be inferred from a suspect’s mere failure to communicate clear objection to the test.

In sum, there is nothing “obvious” about Arizona DUI laws.

The Truth About Character Evidence

I found a great website for information on jury research.  Kathy Kellerman is a communications consultant who regularly posts answers to questions about how jurors make decisions.  She has an informative post about the effectiveness of evidence of a defendant's good character in a criminal trial.  I think most people (including attorneys) will be surprised by what the research concludes about this type of evidence.

Question:

Does character evidence help or hurt defendants in criminal trials?

Answer:

Recent research by Hunt and Budesheim (2004) studied the effects of positive character evidence when offered alone, and when followed by a prosecutor cross-examining about specific bad acts.

 

These researchers found that, on its own, general descriptions of a defendant's positive personality characteristics had little effect on juror decision-making; that is, positive character evidence did not reduce guilt perceptions or decisions to convict. Additionally, when a character witness was cross-examined with examples of a defendant's previous specific bad acts, jurors' impressions of the defendant were more negative, guilt perceptions higher, and conviction decisions more likely than when no information at all was provided about the defendant's character.

The researchers concluded that permissible positive character evidence does little to help a defendant, and negative character evidence in the form of specific bad acts cross-examination can hurt a defendant considerably.

Source: Hunt, J. S. & Budesheim, T. L. (2004). How jurors use and misuse character evidence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 2, pp. 347-361.

I recommend you check out her website here.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is NOT legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship between you and Koplow & Patane. Legal advice usually varies from case to case.

3 Things I Wish People Knew Before Drinking & Driving

It's 5:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon in Phoenix, and Joe just walked through the door of his favorite restaurant to meet some friends for happy hour.  He drove himself to the restaurant.  When he is done, he is going to drive to his house in Scottsdale.

At the table, Joe sees everyone has one of the restaurant's signature margaritas in front of them.  The waiter comes to the table and asks Joe: "can I get you something to drink?"  Before Joe answers this question, I wish he would consider the following facts:

  1. There is no crime of Drunk Driving in Arizona.  Arizona law makes it illegal to drive while Joe is impaired to at least the slightest degree by alcohol.  This means that if Joe's ability to drive is impaired to any degree, Joe is technically in violation of the law;
  2. If Joe is stopped by the police, they will stick a needle in Joe's arm.  Regardless of the law on this subject, it has been my experience that if Joe is stopped by a police officer for a traffic violation, and the officer smells any alcohol, Joe is going to end up taking a chemical test.  Many police agencies are now using blood testing instead of breath testing.  If the officer smells alcohol on Joe's breath (or just imagines it), Joe is going to have a needle stuck in his arm and a blood sample will be taken.  The results of the blood test will probably take at least 30 days to come back.  While Joe is waiting to find out the results of the blood test, he will not sleep very much or very well;
  3. If Joe refuses the blood test, the officer will get a warrant and forcibly take his blood.  Once the officer meets the requirements of Arizona's implied consent law, he may require Joe to submit to a chemical test.  If Joe says "no," he will then lose his driver's license for 12 months.  Moreover, the officer will then make a phone call to the judge.  Within minutes, the judge can then issue a telephonic warrant.  If Joe still refuses, he will be held down by several police officers, and a needle will be shoved into his vein. 

Now if Joe knew these three things when the waiter asked him: "can I get you something to drink" - how might Joe answer?  I think the average Joe would say: "Yes...Diet Coke."

Arizona DUI Bill May Have New Life

Luige del Puerto of the Arizona Capital Times is reporting that a proposed DUI Bill recently vetoed by Governor Janet Napolitano may have new life. The Arizona Capital times article states:

Lawmakers said they have found a way to revive a vetoed drinking-and-driving bill, minus the provision that prompted its rejection by the governor. The provisions of H2395 will be offered as a floor amendment to a House measure that deals with liquor licensing, lawmakers said. H2395 was vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano April 29.

This time, however, it doesn't include a provision that called for a six-month reduction of the interlock penalty for first-time offenders who met certain conditions. Napolitano has said the penalty reduction was the reason for her veto.

Sens. Linda Gray of Glendale and Jim Waring of Phoenix said the move has the support of House Speaker Jim Weiers and added they anticipate no problems for the amendment. The amendment would:

*Require the State Treasurer to deposit 5 percent of modified restaurant license fees into the DUI Abatement Fund.

*Increase penalties for operating a watercraft while intoxicated, bringing some parity between driving a motor vehicle and operating a watercraft.

*Fix a discrepancy in statute that arose from the passage of the DUI bills last year.

*Require DUI offenders to submit to alcohol screening, education and treatment before a suspended license will be returned.

*Expand the circumstances in which a police officer may serve a license-suspension order.

If You Thought The New Arizona DUI Laws Were Tough, Wait Until You Hear What Other Drivers Are Doing To DUI Suspects In Scottsdale, Arizona

There has been a lot of publicity regarding the new Arizona DUI laws. These new laws have created some of the toughest penalties in the nation. However, it appears that drinking and driving in Arizona could result in something worse than jail.

Mark Flatten of the East Valley Tribune is reporting that a man shot a hit-and-run suspect in Scottsdale, Arizona.

An attempt to block a fleeing hit-and-run suspect ended with a gunshot in Scottsdale Saturday.

Martin Ezekiel, 23, of Phoenix was arrested on charges of aggravated assault after he fired a shot into a truck that had been involved in an accident a short time earlier, wounding the passenger, according to Scottsdale police.

The truck driven by Adbul Muhammad, 28, of South Carolina, struck another vehicle about 1 a.m. Saturday in a Phoenix parking lot and left the scene, according to police reports. Ezekiel and Shawn Azzarello, 24, of Phoenix, witnessed the accident and followed Muhammad’s truck into Scottsdale, eventually blocking it in a parking lot at 15550 N. 78th St. When the truck backed toward Ezekiel’s vehicle, he fired a single shot, striking an unidentified passenger in the right forearm, according to police reports. Both vehicles then left the area but were later stopped by police.

Ezekiel was arrested on charges of aggravated assault, and Azzarello for DUI and drug possession. Muhammad was arrested for DUI.

The unidentified gunshot victim was taken to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn. His wound was not considered life threatening.

I guess having to use an ignition interlock device is not as bad as being shot. Who knew that it could get worse for people suspected of DUI in Arizona?

About

Lawrence Koplow is a founding member of the Koplow Law Firm. His criminal practice is dedicated and focused on DUI law and vehicular crimes defense. His clients have included police officers, firefighters and lawyers charged with DUI. Attorneys often consult with him to assist with their own DUI clients.

He is a proud graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He is also an active member of:

Lawrence is a former prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. When he left the County Attorney’s Office, he was working in the Vehicular Crimes Unit. While in the vehicular Crimes Unit, Lawrence prosecuted:

After leaving the prosecutor’s office. Lawrence worked in the in-house counsel group for Farmer’s Insurance, where he primarily handled the defense of automobile accident cases. This included defending civil lawsuits arising from DUI crimes.


Mr. Koplow subsequently co-founded the law firm of Koplow & Patane which eventually evolved into the Koplow Law Firm.  His practice is focused on the defense of impaired drivers charged with DUI and vehicular crimes. Now he uses what he learned as a prosecutor to benefit his clients. Lawrence frequently writes regarding emerging DUI issues and defenses. He also presents lectures on DUI defense strategies, DUI prevention and effective DUI investigations. Some of the people has conducted DUI seminars for include:

  • The Chicago Cubs
  • The Oakland Athletics
  • The Milwaukee Brewers
  • The Arizona Association of Civil Defense Attorneys
  • The Northern Arizona Police Department

He has also been a guest lecturer on KTAR Radio in Phoenix regarding DUI and Vehicular Crimes cases. 

For Additional Information:

Contact Lawrence Koplow on-line or call him at his office at (602) 494-3444.  Mr. Koplow and his firm will be available to help you solve your legal problems.

Locations

Lawrence and his firm practice in the following Arizona locations:

  • Phoenix
  • Scottsdale
  • Tempe
  • Gilbert
  • Chandler
  • Surprise
  • Apache Junction
  • Flagstaff
  • Sedona
  • Bullhead City
  • Glendale
  • Peoria
  • Avondale
  • Buckeye
  • Carefree
  • Cavecreek
  • Casa Grand
  • Prescott
  • Lake Havasu
  • Tucson

What If I Didn't Know My License Was Suspended

The most common way that a person is charged with aggravated DUI (felony DUI), is at the time when they are allegedly driving under the influence, their drivers license was suspended.  As odd as this may sound, it is very common that a person did not know their license was suspended.  This is because the procedures of Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) are so complicated and confusing, that even most lawyers cannot figure them out.  Thus, the difference between a felony DUI requiring a prison term, and a misdemeanor DUI requiring a short term of jail, can be the simple fact the person did not pay an $85.00 fee.

Most people think, "no problem, I will just explain that I didn't know my license was suspended."  However, this explanation will not satisfy a prosecutor.   This is because Arizona law does not require that you actually know your license is suspended to make the crime a felony.  Thus, the strategy in defending these cases is to show the client did not deliberately ignore the status of his license.    

Here is the basic law regarding aggravated DUI due to a suspended license.  Aggravated DUI based on a suspended license requires proof that the defendant drove a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol while his license was suspended, and that he knew or should have known of the suspension. State v. Williams, 144 Ariz. at 489, 698 P.2d at 734.

Pursuant to A.R.S. § 28-3318(A), the MVD must provide written notice to a licensee informing him when his license is suspended. The written notice must be sent by mail to the address provided to the Department on the licensee’s application, unless the licensee has notified the Department of a change in his address pursuant to § 28-448(A) (requiring licensees to “notify the department within ten days” of any change in address). § 28-3318(C). Moreover, pursuant to § 28-3318(D), “[s]ervice of the notice provided by this section is complete on mailing.” Furthermore, § 28-3318(E) provides:

Compliance with the mailing provisions of this section constitutes notice of the suspension, revocation, [or] cancellation . . . for purposes of prosecution under § 28-1383[.] The state is not required to prove actual receipt of the notice or actual knowledge of the suspension, revocation, [or] cancellation[.]

Although the law establishes a presumption that the licensee has received notice, and therefore has actual knowledge of his license suspension when the Department complies with the mailing requirement, this presumption is rebuttable and a person may demonstrate that he did not receive the notice. See State v. Jennings, 150 Ariz. 90, 94, 722 P.2d 258, 262 (1986). “[O]nce the state proves mailing of the notice of suspension, the state no longer has the burden to prove receipt of the notice or actual knowledge of its contents. The burden then shifts to the defendant to show that he did not receive the notice.” State v. Church, 175 Ariz. 104, 108, 854 P.2d 137, 141 (App. 1993).

Therefore, it is not enough for an attorney to merely argue the person did not know his license was suspended.  Rather this is just the first step in the defense.  The defense must also show the person did not deliberately ignore the status of his license.    

 

Lawrence Koplow, Traffic Violation and Speeding Ticket Attorney / Lawyer, Arizona

Phoenix Traffic Attorney Lawrence Koplow has extensive experience defending both criminal and civil traffic violations.  In additional to DUI cases, Mr. Koplow's firm also assists motorists with the following types of traffic issues:

  • Criminal Speeding Tickets
  • Civil Speeding Tickets
  • Red Light Tickets
  • Photo Radar Tickets
  • Driver's License Suspensions
  • Driver's License Revocations
  • CDL & Trucker Violations
  • Traffic Warrants
  • Reckless Driving
  • Aggressive Driving
  • Out-of State Drivers

For Additional Information:

Lawrence Koplow is a former DUI and Vehicular crimes prosecutor.  He has extensive experience with the Arizona traffic laws. Lawrence and his firm use this experience to defend people charged with traffic violations.  This unique knowledge helps him obtain the best possible results for his clients.

Contact Lawrence Koplow online or call him at his office at (602) 494-3444.  Mr. Koplow and his firm will be available to help you solve your legal problems.