Drivers who claimed they were not drunk while driving may have been right after all, despite being prosecuted.
Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said her office in Pennsylvania has not been performing a mathematical calculation needed to convert hospital tests on drivers’ blood, which enable the results to be used as evidence in court, according to the Daily American.
She explained that the hospital began testing drivers’ blood serum or plasma, rather than the whole blood, in June 2010, in what one prosecutor has described as “an oversight.”
As a result, the blood-alcohol content has been overestimated by as much as 15% on DUI cases using hospital blood samples since then.
A blood-alcohol level is used to determine whether someone is legally drunk and, in some cases, and can determine the level of punishment a driver receives if caught over the legal limit.
Under Pennsylvania law, drivers are considered drunk if their blood-alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher.
Tests using blood serum can be used as evidence, but only if a calculation is done to convert the percentage of alcohol found in the serum as though it were taken from a whole blood sample.
In this instance it is believed that more than 570 cases were reviewed and eliminated due to being affected by the discrepancy. But the remaining 180-plus that could have been affected will be reviewed by next week – meaning drivers may be let off after all.
However, defense attorney Steve Miller expects no more than 25 of all cases might have to be retried or dismissed.
He said: “I believe the perception of this problem will be significantly greater than the actual problem.”
An assistant district attorney discovered the blood-alcohol percentages weren’t being converted when he was preparing for a recent case.
“It’s the prosecution’s responsibility to make sure that the levels are correct,” explained Lisa .
“The hospital and police have done nothing wrong.”