Recently, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the prosecution is prohibited from introducing a forensic laboratory report containing a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) certification through the in-court testimony of a scientist who did not sign the certification or perform or observe the test reported in the certification. The court reasoned that analyst’s certification of evidence prepared in connection with a criminal investigation was “testimonial” in nature, and, therefore, fell within the core statements protected by the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. From now on, forensic analysts who write reports to be introduced as evidence against defendants at trial must be made available for defense counsel’s cross-examination. Otherwise, such evidence will be inadmissible, and the case may be dismissed.
Under the Sixth Amendment, every accused in a criminal prosecution has the right to be confronted at trial with the witnesses who testifies against that individual. The Confrontation Clause permits the admission of testimonial statements of witnesses who are not present at trial only where such witnesses are unavailable, and only where the defendant has had a prior opportunity to cross-examine those individuals. A forensic laboratory report stating that the accused’s blood alcohol concentration was over .08% is ranked as testimonial pursuant to the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause because it is created for the sole purpose of introducing it against the defendant at trial to secure his conviction.
Absent stipulation, the prosecution may no longer be able to introduce such a report by eliciting the testimony of a live witness who had neither participated in nor observed the test on the defendant’s blood sample. This decision casts serious doubt upon the validity of the California rule that allows the introduction of DNA evidence against the defendant at trial based upon the testimony of a forensic specialist who did not perform the original testing. Since DNA and BAC testing remains the most common forensic examinations performed in San Diego, this ruling enables defense attorneys to be more compelling in arguing for dismissal of a criminal prosecution based upon a violation of the defendant’s Confrontation rights.
The San Diego Law Office of Domenic J. Lombardo is dedicated to defending criminal charges in state, federal, and county courts throughout San Diego. For a free consultation, contact us at (619) 232-5122, or: [email protected].
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