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Is the TBI DUI testing process a profit center?

We have to have a lot of trust for law enforcement. From the nature of many arrests, where in some cases, the arresting officer may be the only witness, to relying on lab tests performed by state crime labs, the average citizen has to just accept that police, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agents and crime lab technicians are all following the law and doing their job correctly.

Jerry Summers from our firm, however, is concerned that one aspect of how DUI cases are prosecuted is potentially placing defendants at a disadvantage. When a driver is arrested and a blood test is taken, that blood is tested by the TBI's lab. The problem is with how the lab is paid for the tests. 

If the driver is convicted, the lab receives $250 per conviction or breath-testing machine calibration. This seems innocent enough, but with almost 30,000 DUI arrests last year, and a nearly 90 percent conviction rate, that blood testing begins to look like a profit center for the TBI.

While Attorney Summers is not alleging any wrongdoing or mishandling by the TBI, the financial reimbursement could provide the incentive for someone to skew results. Crime labs throughout the nation have had incidents that compromised the reliability of their work, ranging from sloppy mishandling of tests, to workers maximizing their production by the outright falsifying test results.

The integrity of the criminal justice system depends on trust. Processes like this, which potentially compromise this trust by providing an incentive to the lab or its employees to place a thumb on the scale of justice, should be avoided at all costs.

wrcbtv.com, "TBI's "monetary incentive" for DUI convictions raises questions," Sara Sidery, February 5, 2015

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