As Montgomery County prosecutors work to get drunken drivers before a judge quicker and repeat offenders off the roads faster through the county’s new DUI Court, they’re learning all they can about the science behind blood-alcohol testing.
|Montgomery County Courthouse|
In addition to spending weekends monitoring and observing DUI checkpoints in the county, a group of DUI prosecutors last week toured NMS Labs, a nationally renowned clinical and forensic toxicology laboratory located along Welsh Road in Willow Grove. The lab provides diagnostic toxicology services for law enforcement, lawyers and medical examiners and is utilized by county prosecutors in cases heading into DUI Court.
“We put them on (in court) so much and we deal with them by email and phone that we decided it would be a good idea to go out there and spend some time with them,” said Assistant District Attorney Bradford Richman, who leads the district attorney’s DUI prosecution unit. “We heard from a number of their toxicologists and expert services representatives who were the ones who get us the various reports.
|Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Bradford Richman at NMS Labs/Photo courtesy of Brad Richman|
“It was a very productive day. We learned a lot hearing from these various experts. We got a chance to tour their laboratories, which gives us a good understanding of how the process works and how their chain of custody works and how the pieces of equipment work,” Richman added.
“It was a great day for the unit. I think we all learned a lot. The prosecutors assigned to the unit were right in there down in the lab, asking questions about science and how the science works,” Richman said.
|Montco DUI Court prosecutors meet NMS Labs representative Reynold Dyson (on right) during a tour of Willow Grove facility./Photo courtesy of Bradford Richman|
Richman said it was good too for NMS officials to be able to meet prosecutors, “to put names with faces.”
“They wanted to hear from us too. We live in separate worlds. They’re in the science world and we’re in the criminal courts,” said Richman, explaining prosecutors explained to NMS officials how the DUI unit is set up and how it works.
|Montco Prosecutor Douglas Lavenberg (in foreground) has some questions for NMS Labs representative Reynold Dyson/Photo Courtesy of Bradford Richman|
Spearheaded by District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, the county’s DUI Court was implemented in January 2014 after several years of discussions with the county judiciary.
The new way of handling DUI cases developed as court officials looked for ways to track and expedite DUI cases, which historically comprise nearly one quarter of the county’s total criminal court caseload, and to protect society from habitual offenders and to obtain consistency in punishments.
Kudos to Richman for arranging the educational trips for his staff of young prosecutors in the DUI Unit. I’m sure that observing DUI checkpoints and learning about the science of blood-alcohol testing can only make prosecutors better at their jobs and give them the necessary tools to prosecute cases fairly and accurately.