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900 DUI Defendants Notified About OC Crime Lab Blood Test Errors

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(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) —Letters have been sent to 900 people accused of drunken driving, notifying them that Orange County’s crime lab issued faulty blood test results.

An audit of the Orange County Crime Lab at the beginning of October uncovered the mistakes, which affect about 200 DUI cases but will only clear the names of about 20 people, said Bruce Houlihan, the lab’s director.

The errors began when some data weren’t properly saved, Houlihan said, adding that the lab uses two machines to analyze blood samples and averages the results.

“Because of the size of the error, we didn’t actually notice it,” Houlihan said.

About 200 cases will see slight adjustments in the blood-alcohol level, with 20 of those dropping just below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. That won’t necessarily amount to a free pass, Orange County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Farrah Emami said.

“In regards to a case of 0.07, we’ll review those, but even in the case of .07, that’s not automatically grounds for a case to be dismissed,” Emami said. “There are cases we prosecute based on 0.07 and we secure convictions in those cases.”

Prosecutors have reviewed about 3,000 cases handled between April and October, and about 2,200 people were charged with drunken driving, Emami said. Letters have been sent to 900 defendants with resolved cases, notifying them of an error at the lab.

“Of those, 900 have been resolved either through a guilty plea or conviction,” Emami said. “Our office sent letters to all 900 cases that have been resolved, notifying them of an error at the crime lab and they can check their case on the Orange County Crime Lab website to see if their case could be potentially impacted by the error.”

By Dec. 1, corrected blood test results will be published on the lab’s website, Houlihan said.

People arrested on suspicion of DUI between April and October should ask their attorneys how to proceed, Emami said.

Of about 1,300 pending cases, defense attorneys were notified directly in case the botched results could affect the outcome of a case, Emami said.

“The large majority of our cases will not be impacted,” Emami said.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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