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US Supreme Court requires government to offer live proof of lab tests.


Posted on Jul 08, 2009

In a case that will likely have a great impact on all drug cases and DWI cases in Viginia, the Supreme Court of the United States has recently rejected the use of signed affidavits in lieu of live testimony to prove the results of lab test for drugs.   According to Fairfax Virginia DUI and Marijuana/Drug Defense Attorney Paul McGlone, this is one of the biggest decisions in protection of Citizen's rights since Miranda v. Arizona. 

The new case, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, dealt with a situation where the state offered a lab sheet signed by the technician who tested the cocaine, but the technician was no available for cross-examination by the defense.   Courts have traditionally allowed such evidence, over the objection of the defense.   In a detailed opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia has explained to the trial judges that the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment really does apply to the government's evidence in these cases.  

Now, trial courts will have to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether this new case will govern certain types of evidence in criminal cases.   Defense attorneys, such as Fairfax Virginia attorney Paul McGlone, predict that there will be a split amongst trial judges on whether the new caselaw applies to such items as breath and blood tests, radar or laser speed tests and various other types of evidence that have, up to now, been established without live testimony.

Follow this link to the full text of Justice Scalia's opinion in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.

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Paul Liam McGlone
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DWI and Criminal Defense Attorney and Founder of McGlone Law Firm