There is a common misconception that scientific evidence is infallible and the results of scientific testing are used to convict people for criminal offenses throughout this country on a daily basis. Many people do not realize undetected or undisclosed system errors are in fact sending innocent people to jail or prison. From the breathalyzer machine not properly maintained, inspected or used to now discounted hair analysis, which applied the wrong statistical probability of a match, we are now learning many supposedly infallible tests are “riddled with error.”
The most recent case showing the magnitude of this problem can be found in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s use of the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). Technical problems with this system have cost the State of Florida over $11 million and have resulted in delays in investigations and arrests throughout the State of Florida.
Incredibly, rather than investigate the folks responsible for these errors, the State of Florida is vigorously trying to seek the dismissal of a whistleblower lawsuit seeking to hold the system’s developer, Motorola, responsible for defrauding the State. The lawsuit alleges Motorola was aware of the system defects and intentionally withheld this data from FDLE. Why defend an obviously flawed system? According to The Miami Herald, “One reason the state might want to have the lawsuit dismissed is that a faulty fingerprint I.D. system could be a legal headache for Florida law enforcement agencies…. In a worst-case scenario, prosecutors would have to re-examine all cases where fingerprint and palm-print evidence was used to convict someone since the system was put in place.”
Should you find yourself faced with what appears to be slam dunk scientific evidence case against you, it is important your attorney possess the knowledge, resources and research capability to put such evidence to the test. In our experience, many lawyers are not comfortable challenging so-called expert witnesses and their testimony about scientific testing. We have successfully challenged the use of DNA evidence [Murray v. State, 692 So.2d 157 (Fla. 1997)], and take pride in using our expertise to challenge the accuracy of scientific test results. Scientific analysis is only as good as the means and method behind it. Call us if you find yourself faced with a prosecution based on “science.”