According to the Innocence Project, the misapplication of forensic science is a contributing factor in 45 percent of wrongful convictions that were resolved through DNA exonerations. The problem, which the Innocence Project defines as unreliable or invalid forensic discipline, insufficient validation of a method, misleading testimony, mistakes or misconduct, is the second most common contributing factor to wrongful convictions.
An interesting question came before the U.S. Supreme Court recently. In Stuart v. Alabama, a woman was charged with DUI and criminally negligent homicide for rear-ending another driver's car, causing it to strike a tree and kill the driver. Prosecutors submitted a lab report to prove the woman was under the influence of alcohol, but they did not ask the scientist who performed the tests to testify. Under the Sixth Amendment, however, criminal defendants have the right to confront all of the prosecution's witnesses.
The National Academies of Science released a comprehensive report in 2003 that examined the state of the science in lie detection. After reviewing nearly a century of scientific data and reports and visiting polygraph units run by government agencies, the NAS committee found that polygraphs were prone to both false positives and false negatives.
If you live in Colorado, you've probably heard that driving while impaired by marijuana is illegal. Unfortunately, with an increasing number of states legalizing marijuana for either recreational or medical purposes, the incidence of drugged driving appears to be on the rise.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, at least 139 people were exonerated in 2017. These people had been convicted of criminal offenses and were then proven to be innocent of those offenses. Shockingly, 84 of the 139 wrongful convictions were the result of official misconduct. In 66 cases, no actual crime had been committed. Overall, these people lost 1,478 years of freedom.
The Alcotest 9510, a breath testing machine used by numerous police agencies, has been challenged in court in several states. Now, a report from two software engineering consultants who reviewed its source code has been distributed. That report is no longer available for intellectual property reasons, but the consultants expressed serious concerns about the reliability of the test results.
Car accidents happen for any number of reasons. When they are particularly spectacular, it can be easy to assume that intoxication was the cause, perhaps because many shocking DUI accidents have been reported on the news. The mere fact of an accident, however, does not imply the driver was drunk.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a 10th Circuit drug case involving wiretap evidence. A federal judge in the District of Kansas issued a wiretap order against two suspects, but the modern wiretap process allowed law enforcement to listen even when the phones were outside that district. Should a Kansas District wiretap order be effective wherever its targets travel? Should evidence collected outside of the Kansas District be allowed against the defendants?