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Court Discusses What Discovery Is Mandatory in New York DWI/DUI Cases

New York DWI lawyers must understand the science as well as the law.  Under long-standing U.S. Supreme Court case law, the prosecution must disclose all evidence that is material to guilt or innocence to the defense. This means that in a New York DWI/DUI case, the prosecution has an obligation to hand over not just the evidence that it plans to use to establish that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but also evidence that would tend to show that the defendant did not commit the crimes charged.

In a recent New York DUI case, the court considered the extent of the discovery that must be provided to a defendant facing charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was pulled over while traveling 81 miles per hour in a 50-mile-per-hour zone. Upon pulling the defendant over, the officer claimed the defendant had glassy eyes, slurred speech, and an odor of alcohol on his breath. When asked, the defendant told the officer that he had consumed a single drink.

The officer requested that the defendant take a breath-alcohol test, and the defendant agreed. The test was given with a device called the Intoxilyzer 5000, and showed that the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was .10, which is over the legal limit of .08. The Intoxilyzer 5000 measures the ethyl alcohol in a subject’s breath and, as a general matter, is presumed to be reliable if the machine is in proper working order and the test was administered correctly. This includes a requirement that the prosecution establish “that the chemicals used in conducting the test were of the proper kind and mixed in the proper proportions.”

To establish that an Intoxilyzer 5000 is accurate, the user must conduct a “simulator test” on a substance with a known quality of alcohol. If the Intoxilyzer returns a measurement within .01 of the actual measurement, the machine is said to be accurate. Prior to testing the machine, the simulator solution must be tested by a process called “headspace gas chromatography” to verify its alcohol content. In essence, the headspace gas chromatography process tests the control substance that is used to ensure the accuracy of the Intoxilyzer 5000.

In this case, the defendant sought the testing data from the simulator solution, including the headspace gas chromatography data. The prosecution argued that it should not be required to provide this information to the defendant because it was not used to test his breath and was only used in the calibration process. The court disagreed, holding that the calibration data was material to the defense although it did not reflect anything done to the defendant’s breath sample. The court explained that the prosecution must establish that the machine used to test the defendant’s breath was properly calibrated, and this data is directly relevant to that inquiry. Thus, the court granted the defendant’s motion to compel discovery.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York OWI Case?

If you have recently been arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated in or around New York City, you should contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we are on the cutting edge of criminal defense, constantly employing new technology and innovative legal theories in the defense of our clients. To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

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