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Faulty DUI Tests in Colorado Lead to Acquittals, Questions

DUI charges were dismissed for seven in Colorado and sentences were reduced for two more following the revelation that a Colorado Springs crime lab had reported incorrect results on hundreds of DUI tests. Five of the nine defendants had already spent time in jail because of the faulty DUI charges.

The mistakes were discovered late last year following a routine proficiency exam, which one chemist failed. Further investigation showed that dozens of DUI tests had been handled incorrectly, resulting in higher blood alcohol content (BAC) test ratings.

Investigators went back and retested thousands of samples dating back to 2007 and, in the end, found more than 200 faulty BAC readings.

Colorado Springs crime lab supervisor, Ian Fitch, has since claimed that problems with the BAC readings were caused by improper use of the solvent n-Propanol. The issue of solvent concentration was first brought to light in an open records request by a Colorado DUI lawyer.

While authorities have been quick to point out that the mistakes seem to be a result of human error, many have questioned the merits of a system that would allow hundreds of individuals to be charged on incorrect DUI readings. The lab was closed down for about two weeks to allow for retesting, but has since been reopened without any damage to its health department certification or international accreditation,

DUI attorneys for all 206 defendants whose cases showed incorrect BAC readings were notified, along with their clients, following the investigation.

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