Any DUI attorney worth his legal fees will know how Melendez vs. Massachusetts impacts DUI defense. The defendant was charged with possessing and trafficking cocaine, evidenced by several bags that the prosecution held as evidence. The defense had 3 certificates of analysis that said the mentioned evidence was cocaine. The defense argued against the inclusion of the evidence, as its validation came through certificates and not a presentable witness who could be cross examined, as a DUI attorney might cross examine an arresting office in a DUI case.
The objections were overruled. The issue was whether the Crawford case applied in the Melendez case and whether the affidavits would be testimonial and whether the defendant had the right to cross examine this testimony under the 6th amendment. The court ruled that affidavits were testimonial statements, and that analysts served as witnesses under the 6th amendment. These analysts could therefore be cross examined by a DUI attorney.
More specifically, the Melendez case does illustrate that there are better ways for a DUI attorney to challenge or verify the results of a scientific test, as the Constitution guarantees only a single way- that of confrontation. A DUI attorney still does not have the right to suspend the Confrontation Clause when a preferable trial strategy is available. In this regard, the court rebuffed the state’s claim that scientific testing is both “neutral” and “reliable.”
As any DUI attorney knows, forensic science is not free from manipulation. It shouldn’t be taken at face value. In the issue of a DUI case, the level of intoxication forms the crux of the trial. This evidence needs to be based on more than police officer testimony, but other factors such as breathalyzer and performance of sobriety tests. A DUI attorney has the duty to question all available evidence in a court of law in the interest of his or her client.
Confrontation is designed to weed out not only fraudulent testimonial evidence, but incompetent evidence as well. The Melendez decision rejects the notion that the documents in question qualified as traditional official or business records. The court decided that by requiring testimonial evidence to substantiate the scientific determinations that “the sky won’t fall.”
A DUI attorney knows how the Melendez case makes it clear that the operator of the state’s chemical test is a necessary witness. However, the court does not make people who routinely work and maintain the lab equipment expert witnesses. The court does not need to hear the testimony of anyone who tested the sample or the testing equipment.
In the case of DUI law, the testimony of the acting police officer is often all a DUI attorney has to work with. When it becomes a matter of one word against the other, a conviction becomes that much more difficult. Police testimony can be called into question if not backed up by empirical evidence such as a Breathalyzer.
A good DUI attorney will know how to use the conclusions of the Melendez case to question key evidence in a DUI trial. Put your rights first by knowing how the court has decided in the past.