Education on Scientific Evidence
Definition: Scientific evidence plays an important role in impaired driving cases. Specialized knowledge of the science behind DUI evidence would likely prove beneficial to judges and prosecutors involved with impaired driving cases.
Executive Summary: Scientific evidence undoubtedly plays a major role in DUI cases. Without such evidence, it would be nearly impossible to prosecute any driver accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Information about the science regarding the effects of alcohol and drugs on the human body will help criminal justice professionals to evaluate and present the facts in each case. Therefore, criminal justice professionals who often work on DUI cases might consider participating in relevant courses designed for this purpose.
More Detail: An accurate, complete and well-written or recorded post-arrest incident report is necessary to increase a prosecutor’s chances of obtaining a conviction in a DUI case. Preparing such reports requires time, thought and reflection; however, the likelihood of conviction is sometimes dramatically reduced without such a report.
Use of a hand held recording device at the scene outlining the officer’s observations of the behavior of the DUI suspect can serve as a substitute to the written report (or at least a supplement to a shorter written report), each of which should minimize, if not eliminate, the burden of documenting the evidence supporting a DUI arrest.
Criminal justice professionals may find it helpful to obtain background knowledge on each step of the testing procedures for detection, including information about the mistakes that can be made while obtaining evidence. Given the large caseload and sometimes limited financial resources in the judicial system, such training may not be possible. However, criminal justice professionals are generally required to participate in continuing education, which could incorporate training on the science related to evidence and procedures in impaired driving cases. States should create, promote and assist, with the resources necessary to successfully execute these enhanced education programs. Participation in such programs would help to create a more educated and better-prepared criminal justice system to successfully manage impaired driving cases.
In 1984, the National District Attorneys Association founded the American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI), which is a non-profit research and program development resource for prosecutors. APRI provides access to comprehensive data resources, including a nationwide network of working prosecutors.
The National Association of State Judicial Educators (NASJE) also provides resources for online research and judicial self-education concerning impaired driving case adjudication and disposition at http://www.nasje.org, and the National Judicial College has several NHTSA-funded courses for judges http://www.judges.org. Practitioners may ask their Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP) for more information on this issue.
Suggested Audience: Prosecutors, Judges
- NHTSA – Review of Literature on Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving Skills 2000
- NHTSA – Guide to Understanding BAC and Alcohol Impairment 2005
- NDAA – Prosecutors and Toxicology 2003
- A National Online Resource Library for the Judiciary On Impaired Driving
- APRI – The American Prosecutors Research Institute
- National Judicial College
- National Center for State Courts
- NHTSA – Breath Testing at 10 degrees Celsius