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Former Traffic Court Judge Serving New York and New Jersey

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Mishandled blood sample puts DUI charge in question

Following virtually every traffic stop made by police suspicious of a driver's intoxication, one or more sobriety tests are administered. Methods including (but not limited to) a field test, breathalyzer, and blood sample exam are employed by authorities to determine one's blood-alcohol content, with results frequently comprising the lion's share of a case's relevant evidence.

One instance of New York DUI charges, however, became quickly more complicated than the usual durnk driving case after defense attorneys, with the help of a well-credentialed forensic pathologist, moved to suppress a damning blood test after it was discovered that hospital and laboratory technicians may have mishandled a man's sample.

The case in question came as a result of an accident involving a Hoosick Falls man-a serious two-car collision that killed the man's wife, who had been in the passenger seat of his vehicle. Initial blood test results returned a blood-alcohol content of .17 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

Serious charge of drunk driving, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment were all levied against the main, in large part on account of the very high intoxication reading derived from his blood sample.

However, according to the above mentioned pathologist, the New York man's blood sample was improperly stored and never received an important preservative that is commonly mixed with blood samples in the crime lab. As a result, it is being argued that the sample was allowed to ferment after its extraction, leading to the high blood-alcohol content upon which the case currently rests.

A trial in the case has been scheduled early March, and the man has reportedly pleaded not guilty to all charges. Another example of the importance of a criminal defense attorney's insight and litigation experience, the dismissal of evidence in this DUI case could lead to a stark lightening of charges or perhaps even an outright dismissal.

Source: Post Star, "Forensic pathologist aids defense in fatal crash case," Don Lehman, Jan 21, 2013

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