Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in Texas -- but the prosecution may have trouble proceeding with about 1,700 cases in the Houston area. That's how many are estimated to be affected by a nationwide recall on the equipment that is used to hold blood sample evidence.
According to the Houston Forensic Science Center, a lab that works with both the police and Harris County District Attorney's Office, the company that provided the tubes used to store blood has issued a nationwide recall of about 240,000 tubes. Approximately 100 tubes are known to be defective, but the entire manufacturing lot is being recalled as a precaution.
What's wrong with the tubes? Well, without a specific additive powder, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the tubed blood can actually change over time. The preservative powder stabilizes the BAC -- something that provides critical evidence if prosecutors want to proceed with a case against a defendant. While lab technicians who do the blood draws from defendants are supposed to check to make certain the preservative powder is in the tube before blood is drawn, there's no reliable way to determine if it is there once the blood is actually in the tube.
According to the Houston lab, they received about 6,000 tubes out of the defective lot. Approximately 3,400 have been used -- two to a case. While the Houston lab is the first to go public with the information, it's highly likely that other labs around Texas and the rest of the nation are facing a similar issue. The labs will, out of necessity, have to disclose the problem to both prosecutors and defendants in cases that stem back to the first of the year.
Issues like this illustrate some of the complex factors that can go into a DWI case -- and how an unexpected situation can drastically impact your defense. If you've been charged with a DWI, it's important to have an experienced attorney look at your case in order to protect your rights.