The following post is from a respected national DUI attorney, Lawrence Taylor, a man I respect. Here he lays out the best and most damning argument against Ohio’s decision to prevent defendant’s from challenging the breath test machine. The decision he is criticizing is State v. Vega. It is the position of this blog that this decision is badly decided and should be overturned.
Posted by Lawrence Taylor on December 4th, 2008
I received a lot of email from readers who think there was some misunderstanding at the end of my last post, that it could not possibly be true: It looks like Ohio is asking themselves the same question I’ve been asking: “What are they hiding?“. Oh, and let me repeat that last paragraph in the news story: (Public Safety Department counsel Joshua) Engel predicted “we will not see any lawsuits in Ohio” because the Ohio Supreme Court established in an earlier ruling that the accuracy of drunken driving testing machines could not be brought up as a defense.
What? An American citizen accused of driving over .08% is not permitted to question the accuracy of the machine — the only blood-alcohol evidence in the case?
Yep. Ohio is the only state in the country saying that if a breath machine is approved for use by the State, it’s accuracy cannot be challenged in court. See the Ohio Supreme Court case of State v. Vega, 12 Ohio St.3d 185, 465 N.E.2d 1303 (1984). That’s right, folks. No typo, no misinterpretation, no mistake. That has been the law in the State of Ohio for 25 years now. Right here in America: if you are accused of drunk driving, you are not permitted to question the reliability or accuracy of the breath machine – and the manufacturers won’t even let you see what’s inside. The machine is judge, jury and executioner.
One of those emailing me, an individual who is highly qualified to comment, wrote: What is interesting is your comment on Vega and Mr. Engles statement…It is indicative of the attitudes that are created when the validity of forensic science is allowed to hide behind a judges robe. His comment was an arrogant affront to every judge in this state and an insult to our judicial system.
What is also interesting is that in the 25 or so years since Vega, no other state has taken judicial notice nor has any other state had a similar decision. Just imagine if you were accused of, say, burglary based upon fingerprints found at the scene — and you were not permitted to question the fingerprint analysis. Or you were on trial for murder– but you couldn’t challenge the DNA analysis pointing to you as the killer. Just another example of “The DUI Exception to the Constitution“.