The Colorado Department of Health’s DUI blood testing laboratory has been under fire recently. This happened after a report went to the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. So, on June 7, the state’s attorney general’s office faxed this to the defense bar. Also, it went to the state’s head public defender’s office and all district attorney offices. Also, they received a letter with a report attached about an investigation conducted at the state’s DUI blood testing lab. The report, finalized on March 18, contained damaging information about the inner-workings of the facility.
“Thousands of cases are now affected,” said Denver DUI lawyer Jay Tiftickjian. He spoke to the New York Times after taking to the media at the criminal defense bar’s press release. The Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) is the laboratory that analyses most of the DUI blood samples in Colorado. So, the findings in this report could affect the integrity of thousands of blood samples in pending DUI cases. Included in this number are tests that have already been entered into evidence at trial. Also, there exist samples relied upon to convict and sentence motorists accused of various crimes. These crimes include DUI, vehicular homicide, and felony vehicular assault.
The findings in this report include:
- That the lab supervisor, Cynthia Burbach, had bias toward the prosecution and against defendants in criminal and DUI cases.
- Employees got encouraged to appear in court to testify. They testified about matters that they did not feel they had the knowledge to understand or offer expert opinion on.
- Employees felt their training in DUI BAC analysis was inadequate, as was the supervision and protocols in place to assure quality in the results of the laboratory.
- The pending blood samples were kept in an unlocked refrigerator, contrary to the rules and regulations set forth by the same department.
- Burbach used employees to help her write her thesis for her master’s degree while they were on the government’s clock.
- The toxicology lab did not have sufficient staff to handle prosecutors’ demands or samples that requiring testing.
As concerning as this report is, equally so is the delay in its disclosure from March 18. The state’s attorney general sent the report to the defense attorneys through the bar association and public defender’s office, but to the best of the author’s knowledge, no prosecutor in Colorado had ever provided the report to a defense attorney or defendant prior to the late afternoon of Friday, June 7. Part of the ongoing investigation by the media as well as by attorneys in Denver and across Colorado will focus on the untimeliness of the disclosure of this report.
Approximately a week and a half prior to the release of this report, Burbach retired. She issued a press release in response to the criminal defense bar’s press conference asking to be left alone. The Executive Director of the CDPHE, Dr. Chris Urbina, resigned three days after the defense bar’s press conference after increasing scrutiny by DUI defense attorneys and media reporters.
The governor’s office recently released a statement asserting that changes are coming.