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Victory for DUI/OVI Defense in Bullcoming v. New Mexico

Last Thursday, DUI/OVI defense attorneys scored a huge victory for defendants' rights when the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S.Ct. 587 (2010), affirming its previous decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S.Ct. 2527 (2009).

In Melendez-Diaz, the Court held that, pursuant to the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, forensic reports, such as drug tests, prepared for use at trial, are testimonial evidence that cannot be introduced without the live testimony of a witness who can attest to the accuracy of its contents. The rule established by Melendez-Diaz applied to any case in which a prosecutor presented toxicology or forensic report as evidence at trial, requiring that the prosecutor subpoena the person who actually did the work that produced the report, except in DUI/OVI cases. In DUI/OVI cases, prosecutors were permitted to admit expert reports without testimony or to allow an analyst's supervisor to testify in the analyst's absence.

The Facts

In Bullcoming, Donald Bullcoming was convicted by a New Mexico court for driving while intoxicated and sentenced to two years in prison. The trial court allowed into evidence a blood alcohol draw that was ordered after Bullcoming refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. Bullcoming's defense attorney contended that the laboratory report of summarizing the results of the blood draw was testimonial evidence, and therefore was subject to the restriction established by Melendez-Diaz.

On appeal, the conviction was affirmed by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, holding that the forensic report was admissible as a business record, and again on appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court, holding that even though the report was testimonial evidence, its admission did not violate the Confrontation Clause.

The Supreme Court's Decision

After hearing the case in early March of 2011, the Supreme Court recently published a decision reaffirming the holding of Melendez-Diaz. The Court determined that forensic reports analyzing blood draws were testimonial evidence subject to the provisions of the Confrontation Clause and required testimony by a witness that could verify the accuracy of the report's contents in order to be admissible. Because the State was unable to produce testimony by the forensic analyst who prepared the report at issue, the Court concluded, that the report was inadmissible as evidence against Bullcoming.

Have you been arrested for DUI / OVI, then contact an Akron DUI / OVI attorney today.