Monday, November 23, 2020

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. French (Decided November 23, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished), which stands for the proposition that the Confrontation Clause does not prohibit the use of machine or computer generated data.

In French, the Defendant was arrested for DWI in Becker County, Minnesota and the police obtained a search warrant for his blood.  The results of the blood test revealed the presence of amphetamine and methamphetamine. 

Mr. French was subsequently charged with felony DWI.  The defense subsequently learned that, "D.Z.", the scientist who analyzed French's blood, had retired and was not available to testify at trial.  The defense then moved to exclude the results of D.Z.'s lab report as D.Z. was unavailable to testify.

The district court concluded that “the BCA lab report prepared by [D.Z.] is inadmissible unless [D.Z.] herself testifies at trial.” But the court “reserved ruling as to whether another BCA scientist may testify as an expert witness at trial".

Over French’s objection, the district court allowed BCA scientist J.S. testify that French’s blood had been tested for the presence of controlled substances, but that she was not the analyst who conducted the testing. Although D.Z.’s report was not admitted into evidence, J.S. testified that she independently reviewed the raw data in the file associated with French’s case and concluded that French’s blood sample showed the presence of amphetamine and methamphetamine.

The Defendant was convicted of Felony DWI and on appeal, he argued the admission of J.S.’s opinion testimony, that French’s blood tested positive for a controlled substance, violated his Confrontation-Clause rights because, “the BCA scientist who actually performed the test did not testify".

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the Defendant's conviction noting:

"As the state points out, French does not address this court’s decision in State v. Ziegler, 855 N.W.2d 551 (Minn. App. 2014). In that case, the defendant was charged with criminal vehicular operation (CVO) and reckless driving. Ziegler, 855 N.W.2d at 552. In preparing for trial, a state trooper used computer software to extract data from the defendant’s vehicle, such as the vehicle’s speed and brake activation prior to the accident at issue. Id. The software generated a report containing the data from the defendant’s vehicle. Id. At trial, however, the prosecution called a different state trooper who provided accident-reconstruction testimony based on his review of the machine¬generated report. Id. at 552-53. The testifying trooper admitted that he was not present when the software extracted the data from the defendant’s vehicle, or when the report was generated. Id. at 553. He also admitted that he did not know whether the software was working properly when the vehicle data was extracted, or whether all proper procedures were followed. Id."

"A jury found the defendant guilty of the charged offenses. Id. On appeal, the defendant argued that the district court violated her Sixth Amendment right to confrontation by admitting the data collected from her vehicle through the testimony of a trooper who was not present when the data was collected. Id. at 554. This court disagreed, concluding that “machine-generated data that do not contain the statements of human witnesses are not testimonial statements within the meaning of the Confrontation Clause.” Id. at 558. In reaching its decision, the court recognized that “Melendez-Diaz, Bullcoming, Caulfield, and Weaver do not determine the issue presented in this case because in those cases, the objectionable evidence was not limited to machine generated data; it included out-of-court statements made by people regarding the data.” Id. at 555. But the court stated that “several federal circuit courts have addressed the issue and concluded that such data are not testimonial statements within the meaning of the Confrontation Clause.” Id. The court then referred to a Seventh Circuit Court case, which “noted that a chemist’s report admitted into evidence had ‘two kinds of information: the readings taken from the instruments, and the chemist’s conclusion that these readings mean that the tested substance was cocaine’ and that only ‘the latter is testimonial as the Supreme Court used that word in Crawford.’” Id. at 556 (quoting United States v. Moon, 512 F.3d 359, 361-62 (7th Cir. 2008)). The court also referenced a Fourth Circuit Court case, which concluded that “‘printed data’ generated from chromatograph machines operated by lab technicians were not ‘statements of the lab technicians who operated the machines’ and thus ‘not out- of-court statements made by declarants that are subject to the Confrontation Clause.’” Id. (emphasis omitted) (quoting United States v. Washington, 498 F.3d 225, 229-30 (4th Cir. 2007))."

"This case is akin to Ziegler. As in Ziegler, a machine generated the raw data related to French’s blood sample. Under Ziegler, the raw data is not testimonial. See id. at 558. Although the conclusions in D.Z.’s report are testimonial, the report was not admitted into evidence. Instead, J.S. testified regarding her independent review of the machine¬generated data. As in Ziegler, the admission of machine-generated data through J.S.’s testimony did not trigger French’s right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment. See id. And as the court noted in Ziegler, any question regarding the foundation for J.S.’s opinion is not relevant to French’s Confrontation-Clause argument. See id. at 558 (stating that the defendant’s “concerns regarding the reliability of the data and the data-retrieval process are not resolved under the Confrontation Clause”). Accordingly, J.S.’s testimony about the presence of controlled substances in French’s blood did not violate French’s right to confrontation."

Moral Of The Story: Machine's don't lie. Only people do.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.


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