In The News

In The News

Thursday, May 31, 2018

2017 Audit of the Michigan State Police Forensic Lab Confirms Deficiencies in Blood Alcohol Methods

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Michael J. Nichols

The auditor in charge of accrediting the Michigan State Police Forensic Lab identified deficiencies in parts of the method used in the lab, and some of those included issues that were pointed out by attorney Mike Nichols in court over a year and a half prior to the audit. 1 of the deficiencies relates to the failure of the lab to properly calibrate a critical part of the process of blood alcohol testing. The “auto-pipetter-diluter” is the part of the method that mixes the alleged blood of the subject arrest with an internal standard and some de-ionized water in a vial. The vial is later capped and heated. Gas that forms within the vial in an air-pocket of sorts above the liquid is what is eventually injected into the gas chromatograph for analysis. The lab was only having the pipetter-diluter calibrated at 400 microliters, which is no longer the volume that is used when the unknown blood specimen is mixed with a known alcohol solution and water. The lab supervisor, Geoffrey French, doubled the volume in 2013 in response to evidence presented in a high-profile trial that cross contamination was occurring so that blood alcohol from prior samples were getting mixed in with other case samples, leading to an artificially high bac being reported. “The irony is that making the commitment to have the proper volume used in the calibration and sending that instrument to a calibration lab is not difficult – it is just a little more time consuming and slightly more expensive,” says Michigan DUI attorney Mike Nichols. He adds “it was so frustrating in court when judges refused to understand or acknowledge this problem and especially now that the lab’s own accrediting body told the lab to fix it.” The lab received several non-conforming actions, including for disciplines other than toxicology. Download the full assessment report here.

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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.