Thousands of Texas DWI cases may now be contested as the creditability of a forensic scientist has fallen into question. Christopher Youngkin does blood alcohol tests for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s crime lab. He frequently testifies as an expert in DWI cases. He has become the subject of controversy since he may have mixed up lab results in 2013, then provided conflicting testimonies on the results while under oath.
Because of his mistake, the crime lab’s results showed that a woman who hadn’t been drinking had a blood alcohol level that was twice the legal limit. This error was quickly discovered, and the department called the incident a one-time error. The biggest issue is the way that this expert handled the mistake.
The scientist appears to have provided conflicting testimony on his mistake. In one case he is on record denying that the incident occurred, while in another instance he acknowledged his mistake. In a recent case where Youngkin testified, he ended up having to use his 5th amendment rights to avoid answering questions about this contradiction. It is rare for an expert witness to be put in this kind of situation.
What Does this Mean for DWI Cases?
Since attorneys and defendants were not aware of these issues when their cases were heard, it’s possible that many will have a right to a new trial. The prosecutors have begun to send notices to various defense attorneys involved in these cases, informing them of the issue. With the close ties and networks that exist between many criminal attorneys in the area, there will quickly be a large range of responses to the news. It’s difficult to know just how many cases may be affected by Youngkin’s questionable credibility as a witness.
Since there is now a possible example of Youngkin lying under oath, many may now step forward and question the legitimacy of convictions that hinged on his testimony as an expert. Only time will tell the impact this will have, but it will certainly provide some leverage for attorneys looking to defend their clients.