Lebanon judges call DUI testing into question

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Lebanon County’s judges issued a ruling last week calling into question blood testing in DUI cases, leading defense attorneys to seek to get many cases thrown out.

The ruling stems from a request by the county district attorney’s office to attempt to try eight DUI cases together and cites a long-standing concern with how Good Samaritan Hospital tested for alcohol in defendants’ blood.

“BAC testing has been a problem in Lebanon County for several years,” the judges write.

In the ruling, the judges say the hospital uses a Siemens Dade Dimension machine to calculate blood-alcohol content. In the process, lab technicians mix a solution with blood drawn from defendants to determine what the BAC is.

The judges write, and the hospital confirms, it would use a lower volume of the solution and blood than what the machine’s operating manual says is required. The hospital says the ratio of solution to blood would still be the same.

However, defense attorney Justin McShane says that’s enough to throw off the results.

“They didn’t follow directions, and you don’t get the benefit of anything in this world if you don’t’ follow directions,” said McShane.

The hospital’s administrators released the following statement to Fox43:

“The Good Samaritan Hospital uses the supernatant testing process for blood-alcohol content (BAC) tests. The testing device was developed to use a mixture of one part blood mixed with two parts of a chemical agent.  The BAC test will produce an accurate result if you maintain the proper ratio.  This process has been in place for a number of years and the state Department of Health has recertified our testing results repeatedly as accurate in our audits that occur three times each year. 
“Based on recent court rulings, we have updated our process to follow the specific amounts described in the manufacturer’s instructions.  This changes the volume of material used; however, the critical ratio of blood to agent amounts remains the same.
Our equipment is approved for BAC testing by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  The type of equipment is used at many hospitals.”
McShane filed paperwork Thursday in an effort to get some of his clients’ DUI cases thrown out.
“If you don’t follow that manual, the judges have clearly said it’s not admissible evidence,” said McShane, saying the ruling could impact hundreds of pending and recently adjudicated DUI cases.
District Attorney Dave Arnold disagrees about the impact. He said his office has other witnesses and evidence it could call upon in these cases.
“This from my opinion is not going to impact our convictions whatsoever,” said Arnold. “That being said, if there’s ways to do it better, I would encourage (Good Samaritan) to do that.”
The judges wrote in their ruling they would like to see the case appealed to a superior court in an effort to bring clarity to this long-standing issue.
Arnold said he planned to consult with other attorneys in his office before making a decision whether to do that.
McShane was also involved in a case recently that led a Dauphin County judge to call into question the accuracy of DUI breathalyzer tests. While that case is pending, Pennsyvlania State Police have stopped using breathalyzers.

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