Investigating the Laboratory Chemist

Interviewer: What about the training of all the personnel that handle the sample for a DWI drug case?

Leckerman: Looking into the qualifications of the chemist for handling samples, testing and interpreting the test data is absolutely essential in making sure that the results are reliable ones. Often a laboratory will employ chemists who can be trained to do all three of those jobs. What I’ve seen lately is that laboratories are using more of a assembly-line approach as opposed to a single chemist to do the sampling, testing, and interpretation from beginning to end.

Investigating the qualifications, for each one of those chemists taking part in the testing process is an essential component in establishing a defense. Some of these chemists may not have been properly trained prior to being employed by the laboratory. The chemist may be trained on the job. You would want to find out how many times this chemist actually tested a sample in order to find a particular drug. A chemist may have training and a lot of experience to look for the presence of alcohol, but that chemist may have no training and experience looking for a drug such as marijuana.

To the lay person, it may seem as if there is real no difference in looking for alcohol or marijuana in a DUI blood or urine sample. There is a huge difference in not only the sampling, testing, and interpreting of data for those different drugs, but there can also be a difference in looking for certain drugs of abuse. We investigate whether the analyst has proper experience in looking for, let’s say, cocaine as opposed to LSD because there is an analytical difference and a higher degree of difficulty in trying to test LSD as opposed to cocaine.