In The News

Sunday, June 3, 2012


By Michael Nichols
Categories: Drunk-Driving

The Michigan State Police (MSP) is the only organization in the state that conducts blood alcohol tests for police in the state. The forensic services division for the MSP unfortunately, has a policy of "hiding" information from accused citizens, judges and juries. "The lab supervisor readily admits that an 'auto-zero' mode is used on the instruments that analyze the blood that is collected from a driver accused of violating the drunk driving statute," says East Lansing OWI-OWID-attorney Mike Nichols.

When your blood is collected either by your consent or by virtue of a search warrant, the blood sample is sent to the MSP forensic services lab. It will take around 4 weeks for the lab to conduct an analysis and prepare an estimate of the blood alcohol content. It will take much longer if the police agency that arrested you or your loved one to analyze the blood for the presence and concentration of other drugs like marijuana or sleeping medications for example. "What happens, however, is that neither you nor your lawyer will be provided with a 'chomatogram' that shows the original baseline," Nichols adds.
Nichols is the author of the OWI Handbook for Michigan lawyers on drunk and drugged driving. He adds that the problem with hiding the original baseline is that the true story of what compounds were allegedly in your blood is going to be extremely hard to learn and tell the jury. Nichols says: "the fact is that fermentation is a very real possibility in the vial once the blood is collected from your arm - even with the presence of preservatives and anti-coagulants." Nichols goes on to say: "headspace gas chromatography is the scientific method that the lab uses for identifying the presence of alcohol in human blood. It is a separation science. One needs to see tall, skinny and symmetrical peaks to be assured that the only compounds present are the ethanol and the internal standard that is injected for purposes of comparing the ethanol to something else in the blood."
A chromatogram should look like this:

Chromatogram courtesy of Justin McShane:  www.thetruthaboutforensicscience.com

Is this what the chromatogram that the MSP provided to your lawyer looks like? We bet that it does not because the MSP is "turning off the noise." Nichols is challenging this practice in a case in Michigan now: "we allege that the lab is doing something that no other lab of which I am aware is doing - hiding information," he adds.
The director of the MSP forensic services division blood testing unit made the admission under oath recently. Nichols said "his comment was that it gives them 'pretty peaks,' I cannot think of a less scientific statement or objective.
Nichols is the lawyer who challenged the MSP's blood alcohol testing protocols on the grounds that they did not present the uncertainty in the measurement. The lab was admonished by a district judge in Northern Michigan for failing to report its uncertainty. The lab has started to change its ways. Will it stop hiding information and start revealing when contamination may have occurred in an analysis or when blood arrived in a contaminated state? For the attorney who turns over every stone and who is committed to results, contact Mike Nichols at 517 432 9000 or mnichols@nicholslaw.net


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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.