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Another weapon for criminal defense lawyers: D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office loses accreditation

May 19, 2011 Another weapon for criminal defense lawyers: D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office loses accreditation

Image from National Institute of Standards & Technology.

Breath testing for determining blood alcohol content is not reliable. The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department is a shining example of that.

The District of Columbia Medical Examiner’s Office has quality control responsibility for the testing of breath, blood and urine for blood alcohol content involving drunk driving arrests by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. However, the Medical Examiner’s Office has lost its provisional accreditation through the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), because the District of Columbia did not heed NAME’s requirement that the chief medical examiner be board-certified. Moreover, it appears that the Medical Examiner’s Office was never accredited before 2008.

Accreditation and board certification may not be as big a deal when lives and liberty are not at stake, but they are with the Medical Examiner’s Office.

This sad story of the Medical Examiner’s Office’s loss of accreditation and lack of a board-certified chief medical examiner is a big weakness for prosecutors — and a weakness for criminal defense lawyers to exploit to the hilt — in prosecutions relying on the Medical Examiner’s Office.

ADDENDUM: Thanks to a colleague for providing the Examiner link on this story.

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