Junk Science in Ohio DUI/OVI Cases
When you hear a DUI/OVI attorney decrying “junk science” that is used in court, they are most likely referring to the fact that the air blown into the breath test machine for purposes of testing cannot be the same air that is exchanged with the deep lung alveolar sacs. It is impossible to limit the breath test to limit itself to deep lung alveolar air. The theory breaks down because: IF THE MAJORITY OF AIR BEING MEASURED HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BLOOD EXCHANGE THEN THE TEST IS NOT MEASURING THE AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL IN THE BLOOD. The machine does not an cannot discriminate in its air sample. It will measure and analyze the 1.5 liter of breath that it is given. The problems with the theory is that the breath machine has to assume a similar lung volume amongst the population. Common sense dictates that a 21 year old, 6 foot male in perfect health blowing 7 liters of air IS DIFFERENT than an 65 year old, 5 foot 2 inch woman who may only blow 1.5 liters.
The major injustice in DUI/OVI law in Ohio is that attorneys are prevented from attacking the “junk science” of breath tests machines due to the decision in State v. Vega. As amazing as it seems, Ohio has decided that if the government says the science is good enough, then attorneys cannot challenge it. Imagine if the same philosophy were used in other areas of criminal law. What if the Ohio legislature decided that eye-witnesses were inherently reliable and an attorney could not challenge them at trial. What is to stop them from saying that police officers are inherently reliable and they too are free from cross examination.
Our American values suggest that when the government accuses you of a crime you have the right (and your attorney the duty) to challenge the evidence against you. If attorneys vigorously fight, the police are trained to do a better job. Judges who hold the state to a higher standard protect the citizens from tyranny. Being pro-law enforcement should not ever mean we give them a pass, but that we hold them to such a standard that even in the most difficult case we trust the system. The maxim that 10 guilty should go free rather than one innocent be punished express the highest esteem for law enforcement and for our system. Allowing junk science in DUI cases has an opposite and corrosive effect to our American values.