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Confronting the blood-draw analyst: Bullcoming v. New Mexico

On June 23, 2011 a very important decision was handed down by the United States Supreme Court. The case is Bullcoming v. New Mexico. In this case, Donald Bullcoming was involved in an automobile accident, but left the scene of the accident before the police arrived. He was identified by the other driver and was arrested shortly thereafter for DUI/OWI and other traffic violations. Mr. Bullcoming refused standardized field sobriety tests and his blood was eventually drawn and tested for alcohol. This blood draw determined that Mr. Bullcoming's blood alcohol content was in excess of the legal limit in New Mexico.

The primary evidence used against Mr. Bullcoming was the blood draw result. However, the prosecution did not call the analyst who conducted the blood test to testify nor did the prosecutor claim that the analyst was unavailable to testify. They called another analyst who worked for the laboratory. This second analyst testifed as to the blood test results, over the objection of the defense lawyer. Mr. Bullcoming was convicted and appealed. The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the conviction and determined that Bullcoming's right to confront witnesses was not violated.

However, the United States Supreme Court held that Mr. Bullcoming's right to confront witnesses was in fact violated by allowing the second analyst to testify. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority stated, "The analysts who write reports introduced as evidence must be made available for confrontation even if they have 'the scientific acumen of Mme. Curie and the veracity of Mother Teresa.'" The Court further went on to explain that this would be akin to allowing one police officer testify about another officer's radar gun reading.

This could be a potentially damaging case for prosecutor's here in Indiana and not just with blood tests. Certainly, this could be read to include breath test devices (BAC Datamaster) and other chemical tests.

If you have questions about blood tests, breath tests (BAC Datamaster) or the confrontation clause, you need to contact a Fort Wayne criminal defense lawyer.