Monder Law Group - News
Justice Requires A Strong Foundation to Rest Upon
Picture a courtroom of a murder trial: the prosecutor is showing the jury a knife encrusted in dried blood, hinting that this was the knife the Defendant used to stab the victim to death. But how can you know that for sure? Or how can you know that the knife wasn’t compromised in terms of fingerprints or other evidence? This is where the rules of evidence and the importance of laying a proper foundation come into play.
A “foundation” is the minimum amount of facts needed to demonstrate that a particular piece of evidence is authentic enough and relevant enough that it can be admitted at trial. In a way, the foundation of a piece of evidence is like the first paragraph of a news story. It provides the basic “who, what, and why” of the evidence, so that the jury and other people in the courtroom can understand why that evidence is being presented and what the party offering it is trying to prove by presenting it.
A foundation is typically required for all pieces of evidence, and is particularly important in DUI cases. How you ask? Well, how do you know the instruments used to collect a blood alcohol sample were properly functioning? How do you know the machines were correctly calibrated? How do you know the sample of blood used was not tainted in any way? Laying a proper foundation can make or break a case. And so when choosing a criminal defense attorney, make sure to find one skilled in evidence and trial.
No Foundation for the Pre Alcohol Screening:
To lay proper foundation for a DUI case means that the prosecution must authenticate the test results, the test administrator, the credentials, etc. This rule is known as the Adams rule, based from a 1976 California case. The rule requires a showing that:
- the apparatus utilized was in proper working order;
- the test was properly administered; and
- the operator was competent and qualified.
The purpose of this requirement is to protect the fairness of the judicial system and make sure the defendant is given his or her constitutional grants of due process and equal protection under the law.
Now going back to the preliminary blood screenings—remember that these are not meant to determine blood alcohol content, but ONLY in determining if the person is under the influence of alcohol. They are ONLY a tool used for establishing probable cause. In fact, the party told to complete this screening is told this (or should be told this) and they should also be told that if arrested, he or she would be given another test to determine the alcohol content of the blood.
This becomes critical when the defendant consents to the prescreening, but not the actual blood alcohol content test. At trial, such defendants typically argue that they satisfied the implied consent law by submitting to the prescreening, and most judges have agreed with this argument. Hence, they do not allow the jury to be instructed that the defendant refused to give a chemical test as required by the implied consent law (thus, preventing the jury from hearing this bias-inducing fact). In fact, Evidence code §352, provides that the court, in its discretion, may exclude evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the probability that its admission will (a) necessitate undue consumption of time or (b) create substantial danger of undue prejudice of confusing the issues, or of misleading the jury.