DUI mistakes at Orange County Crime Lab

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

SANTA ANA (CNS) – Incorrect blood-alcohol readings from the Orange County Crime Lab could help clear about 20 people arrested for drunken driving.

About 200 cases were affected by the mistake.

“The error’s been fixed and this won’t happen again,” said Bruce Houlihan, director of the Orange County Crime Lab.

A routine audit of lab results uncovered the mistake at the beginning of October, he said.

The errors began when some data wasn’t properly saved, he said, adding that the lab uses two  machines to analyze blood samples and averages the results.

“Because of the size of the error, we didn’t actually notice it,” Houlihan said.

About 200 cases will see slight adjustments in the blood-alcohol level, with 20 of those dropping just below the legal limit of 0.08 percent

That won’t necessarily amount to a free pass, explained Farrah Emami of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

“In regards to a case of 0.07, we’ll review those, but even in the case of .07, that’s not automatically grounds for a case to be dismissed,” Farrah Emami of the District Attorney’s Office said. “There are cases we prosecute based on 0.07 and we secure convictions in those cases.”

Prosecutors sent out letters to about 900 defendants.

About 3,000 cases handled between April and October were reviewed by prosecutors, and about 2,200 people were charged with drunken driving, she added.

“Of those, 900 have been resolved either through a guilty plea or conviction,” Emami said. “Our office sent letters to all 900 cases that have been resolved, notifying them of an error at the crime lab and they can check their case on the Orange County Crime Lab website to see if their case could be potentially impacted by the error.”

By Dec. 1, corrected blood test results will be published on the lab’s website, Houlihan said.

People arrested on suspicion of DUI between April and October were urged to ask their attorneys how to proceed, Emami said.

Of about 1,300 pending cases, defense attorneys were notified directly in case the botched results could affect the outcome of a case, Emami said.

“The large majority of our cases will not be impacted,” Emami said.

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