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Michigan State Police Admit They Botched 4000 Alcohol Blood Tests

Sep 8th, 2016 Blood Testing

The Michigan State Police have announced that as many as 4,000 alcohol blood tests are flawed due to improper calibration.  This means that as many as 4000 people arrested for drunk driving in Michigan could be wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit.

Here’s how the system works: if you are arrested in Michigan for drunk driving, and the police draw your blood to test for alcohol, then the blood sample taken will be sent to a Lansing Toxicology Lab for testing.  The Michigan State Police run this lab that is responsible for alcohol and drug blood testing for the majority of arrested intoxicated drivers.

The process used by the lab is called gas chromatography, and this process requires calibration.  If the calibration is flawed, and it often is, then the blood alcohol or drug level reported by the lab is worthless.

Think of it this way, if you calibrate your bathroom scale with a standard 100-pound weight, and later discover that this 100-pound standard actually only weighs 80 pounds, then each time you stepped on the scale you’d think you weighed 20 pounds more than you actually do.  That’s the same kind of problem that was discovered at the Michigan Toxicology Lab!

The Michigan State Police press release suggests that the prosecuting attorney’s association of Michigan discovered the error, but this seems highly unlikely.  Only the DUI defense attorneys involved would have any reason to look beyond the alcohol number on the toxicology report.  It is far more likely that the prosecuting attorney’s association “discovered” the calibration error when it was pointed out to them by a defense attorney.

The error supposedly only covers a period from December 2015 to April 2016.  The toxicology lab is notifying the various involved parties, and if you were arrested for drunk driving in Michigan during this time period, then your attorney will be notified by mail of the problem.