Chemist not certified; DUI defendant’s license restored
November 6, 2015
The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday restored the drivers' license of a man charged with DUI because the chemist who presented his blood test evidence wasn't certified as an expert witness.
Vincent Valenti was pulled over in July 2012 after changing lanes without signaling. He took a blood test at the Clark County Detention Center and, according to forensic chemist Christine Maloney, had a blood alcohol level just about double the legal limit.
But Valenti appealed arguing Maloney presented no evidence she had ever been court certified as an expert to testify in such cases and her testimony was inadmissible.
Prosecutors argued as a chemist she didn't need court certification as an expert witness. The Administrative law judge agreed as did the district judge on further appeal and upheld the testimony and subsequent revocation of Valenti's license.
But the Supreme Court panel of Justices Michael Douglas, Ron Parraguirre and Michael Cherry overturned the revocation.
They ruled there's nothing in legislative history that indicates chemists are exempt from the requirement expert witnesses be certified. Quoting an earlier Supreme Court opinion in a related case, they ruled "allowing an affidavit from a proposed expert, which lacks the reliability and trustworthiness of an affidavit from one who has been qualified to testify as an expert would violate (the expert witness statute's) plain meaning and lead to absurd results, including the revocation of driver's licenses based on a lay person's affidavit.
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"In the affidavit's absence, it cannot be said that the evidence relied upon by the administrative law judge was sufficiently substantial to revoke Valenti's driver's license."
The panel reversed the revocation and sent the case back to district court, effectively restoring Valenti's license.