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Right to Confront The Toxicologist Who Performed the Test in Tacoma DUI Cases

Under the United States Constitution and Washington law, both of which apply to your Tacoma criminal case, DUI, assault domestic violence or otherwise, people accused of crimes have the right to confront the prosecution’s witnesses against them. If they are denied that right or the prosecution’s witness is unavailable, it may constitute grounds for dismissing the charges against them. Recently, a Washington court discussed the right to confront witnesses in a case in which it dismissed DUI charges against a defendant because the prosecution’s key witness was unavailable. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is wise to confer with a Tacoma DUI defense lawyer regarding what measures you may be able to take to seek a favorable outcome.

The Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that a police officer stopped the defendant’s car due to a headlight violation. After the officer talked to the defendant, he suspected he was intoxicated and asked him to submit to a breath test. The defendant refused, and the officer obtained a warrant for a blood draw. Two vials of the defendant’s blood were collected and sent to a crime lab, where a toxicologist performed an analysis and issued a report setting forth her findings.

Reportedly, the defendant’s blood alcohol level was over the legal limit, and he was charged with DUI. The case proceeded to trial, but the prosecution declined to call the toxicologist on the grounds that she no longer worked for the city. Instead, it moved to admit her report through another party that signed it as a reviewer. The defendant objected to the motion on the grounds that it violated his right to confront the witnesses against him. The court denied the motion but the city appealed, and the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling. The defendant then appealed.

The Right to Confront Witnesses

On appeal, the court addressed the issue of whether the admission of the toxicology report via the reviewer would violate the defendant’s right to confrontation. The court noted that the reviewer did not modify the toxicology report in any way so as to demonstrate the defendant’s guilt.  Accordingly, the court found that the trial court’s determination that allowing the introduction of the toxicology report via the reviewer’s testimony instead of through the testimony of the toxicologist would violate the defendant’s right to confrontation. As such, the court dismissed the charges against the defendant.

Talk to a Trusted Tacoma Criminal Defense Lawyer

The prosecution will often rely on testimony from toxicologists to establish a defendant’s guilt in DUI cases, and if such witnesses are unavailable, the defendant may be able to argue that the charges against them should be dismissed. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is prudent to talk to an attorney about your options for seeking a ruling in your favor. The trusted Tacoma criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC, can inform you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at 253-363-8662 to set up a conference.