DENVER — Thousands of DUI convictions and ongoing cases in Colorado are in jeopardy after a court order on Monday called into question key evidence in the cases.
The order, issued by Gilpin County Judge David Taylor, sent shock waves throughout the state’s criminal justice system. The order criticizes state health officials for what the judge called inaccurate, misleading and deceptive practices.
The judge and numerous defense attorneys have issues with the way Colorado certifies results from a machine called the Intoxilyzer 9000. The machine, found in jails and police stations across the state, tests levels of alcohol detected on a person’s breath.
Its accuracy is determined by a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment technician’s signature on a certificate.
Defense attorneys claim those signatures, time and time again, have been forged. Taylor’s order says evidence provided by the machines are misleading and something other than the truth. Any conviction that occurred between July 2015 through January 2017 may now be called into question, according to legal experts.
“It’s an enormous mess and the department of health really created a problem for themselves and for the court system,” defense attorney Danny Luneau told FOX31.
Luneau questioned the state’s methods in certifying test results while representing Bob Friedlander– a man who insists he wasn’t over the legal limit while driving near Black Hawk last year.
Luneau said Monday’s order shows the state system is unreliable. The Department of Public Health and Environment would not comment on the ruling as of late Monday. A representative said the department’s leadership needed more time to review the ruling.
“It’s going to create uncertainty because you had fraudulent documents being used in criminal cases,” said Luneau.
In the ruling, Judge Taylor said he doesn’t believe there was actual fraud but indicates there was wrongdoing. Dozens of defense attorneys are especially close to this case and believe the order will make their jobs much easier, according Luneau.
Meanwhile, calls are growing louder for Governor Hickenlooper to step in to make sure issues are resolved at the Department of Public Health and Environment.
Governor Hickenlooper’s spokesperson told FOX31 on Monday that her boss is aware of the ruling and will review it before making public comments.