Popular movies and television shows like CSI put forth the notion that “science” is the key to solving crimes. But is “forensic evidence” trustworthy? In real life, blood pattern evidence, DNA evidence, fingerprints, and other “scientific” evidence sometimes just doesn’t hold up.
In fact, “scientific evidence” quite often is junk science, but if a California prosecutor uses junk science against you in a criminal case, you’ll need to be represented by an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney who knows how to debunk the nonsense and get to the truth.
WHY IS THE SCIENCE QUESTIONABLE IN DUI CASES?
The most common criminal charge in the state is driving under the influence (DUI), but much of the so-called science associated with DUI law is questionable.
In the 1950s, “science” told us that if a motorist’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level measured at or above 0.15 percent, that motorist was too intoxicated to drive. Today, science tells us that if a motorist’s BAC level measures 0.08 percent or higher, that motorist is too intoxicated to drive.
Did science change? In truth, it’s almost impossible to measure with any accuracy any person’s intoxication level. A breathalyzer device was once considered precision scientific equipment. Breathalyzer manufacturers – and prosecutors seeking DUI convictions – promoted that myth.
DO PROSECUTORS USE SCIENTIFIC “LINGO” TO IMPRESS JURORS?
Today, breathalyzer devices are well-known to be routinely unreliable, but breathalyzer test results are still used in California criminal courts as evidence against defendants who are charged with driving under the influence.
A DUI defendant may be confronted with a parade of purported scientific evidence and alleged experts. When jurors hear prosecutors use terms like “breathalyzer calibrations” and “alveolar air,” many jurors will presume that whatever a prosecutor says is “scientific.”
Driving under the influence is a common crime, but all kinds of criminal charges are prosecuted with what is frankly junk science. You may be surprised to learn, for example, that “DNA evidence” may not mean anything and may, in fact, prove nothing at all.
WHY IS DNA EVIDENCE SO UNRELIABLE?
We have been taught to presume – mostly on the basis of popular movies and television shows – that if a person’s DNA is discovered on a crime victim or at a crime scene, that person is automatically implicated. The problem is that DNA evidence actually proves nothing at all.
Why is DNA evidence unreliable? It’s because humans “shed” DNA all the time, wherever we go. If someone touches an object that you recently touched, for example, that person can pick up and even transfer your DNA. Experts refer to this as DNA’s “touch-transfer” property.
What can happen? Let’s say that you ride on a public bus. When you exit the bus, someone else takes the seat, picks up your DNA, and then commits a serious crime. Your DNA is found during the forensic analysis of the crime. Without a sound alibi, you could be in serious legal trouble.
Another dubious use of science is “blood-stain pattern analysis.” It’s the examination of blood patterns at a crime scene to determine how the crime was committed. Prosecutors routinely use the technique even though it has been widely criticized and may have no reliability whatsoever.
WHY ARE FORENSIC LABORATORIES PROBLEMATIC?
Another problem is the laboratories that handle forensic evidence. These laboratories do not have a sound reputation. Lab techs analyze forensic evidence in all types of criminal cases. If a technician does not follow the established lab protocols, a defendant can be wrongly convicted.
And negligence may not be the biggest problem at forensic labs. The biggest problem may be money. Some labs are paid only for convictions. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or a DUI defense attorney – to see the ethical conflict when forensic laboratories are paid only for convictions.
Forensic labs, law enforcement officers, and even prosecutors have in some cases manipulated forensic evidence in order to win convictions. It takes a skilled and vigilant defense lawyer to catch the forensic mistakes and effectively cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence.
WHEN WILL YOU NEED TO SPEAK WITH A DEFENSE LAW FIRM IN CA?
Do not let yourself be convicted of a crime on the basis of junk science or erroneous crime lab results. If you are charged with a crime anywhere in Southern California, it is imperative to contact a skilled Orange County criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.
The general standard for the admissibility of scientific evidence in a criminal case is derived from Frye v. United States, the 1923 U.S. Supreme Court decision that blocked the admissibility of polygraph test results.
The Frye decision requires that any scientific evidence introduced in a criminal proceeding must be generally accepted in the scientific community.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH “EXPERT” TESTIMONY?
Expert testimony is a related problem. Back in 1986, Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that “experts whose opinions are available to the highest bidder have no place testifying in a court of law.”
Nevertheless, the payment of expert witnesses in criminal cases continues to be a routine and accepted practice in California and in every other state.
WHAT STEPS WILL YOU NEED TO TAKE IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH A CRIME?
Overcoming a jury’s bias in favor of “experts” and “science” takes the skills of a defense lawyer who knows the science and knows how to cast doubt effectively on questionable “scientific” evidence.
If you are charged with a crime in Orange County or elsewhere in the region:
- Politely exercise your right to remain silent.
- Insist on having your attorney present for any questioning.
- Do not try to be your own attorney. The law is too complicated, and too much is at risk.
If you face any criminal charge, now or in the future, it is imperative to contact and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.
Your defense attorney will work to have the charge against you reduced, dropped, or dismissed, and if that’s not possible, your attorney will seek a not guilty verdict from a jury of your peers. Without the right attorney’s help, you might be wrongly convicted of a crime – by junk science.