According to ABC News the technical supervisor for the League City Police Department has been dismissed foowing an internal affairs investigation. The report states that the technical supervisor, Nellie Martinez, was released for a "variety of performance issues". The "issues" were not identified, and the exact problems will determine how much of impact her firing will have. Those attorneys who have pending DWI cases have already been notified, but the impact may extend far beyond cases that are currently in the court system.
The role of the technical supervisor in a breath test case is critical. In order for a breath test to be admissible, the machine must be working properly. The technical supervisor is the one who has to come to court, and testify that the machine was certified, and working properly. There are certain things that have to be done, such as changing the reference solution every 30 days. That must be done by the technical supevisor. If there are problems with a machine - which there always are - the technical supervisor is the one who fixes them, and the places the machine back into use. If Martinez wasn't doing those things properly, the validity and accuracy of the tests would be effected.
Just because she has been dismissed however doesn't mean all the cases she was involved with have to be thrown out. Lawyers are going to have to go in and review all the records related to their client's case, as well as all the records concerning the machine that tested their client. They are also going to have to find out what the specific problems with Martinez's performance. If those issues involve her maintenance of the breath testing machines there are going to be serious problems.
The problem is not simply limited to League City. According to the report, nine different police agencies, in four counties, use League City for breath testing. Those cities include Pearand, Seabrook, Webster, SouthHouston andtuna Texas City.
Unfortunately, this is simply one more incident that demonstrates the problem with using in forensics in criminal cases. Even if the science is valid, accuracy and reliability depend on the people doing the testing. Like everything else, there are people who are good at it, and those who simply want to get by. It is up to the lawyer in each case to make sure that the testing is done properly, which can only be done by performing a thorough investigation.
If you have a DWI case you need help with, or want additional information, give us a call at 254-296-0020. If you want more information on DWI cases, including breath testing, download our free DWI Survival Guide.