You would think the police wouldn’t be able to commit fraud and still admit the “evidence.” But Judge Michael Stepka and the 86th District Court say nah, bro, that’s fine.
The Michigan State Police should be reeling from a scandal that involves their Datamaster tests. A Datamaster is the test that you take at the police station to see what your blood alcohol level is. It’s an instrument that they use in order to test people arrested for drunk driving.
Of course, when you’re using any kind of measurement device, you have to calibrate it. The Michigan State Police are supposed to periodically test the Datamaster machines. But that’s not what they did. They just copied and pasted old records and called it a day.
A defendant brought this to Judge Stepka’s attention. They asked for their Datamaster test results to be suppressed. You would think that would be a no-brainer.
Judge Stepka: “There’s no evidence that the Datamaster…in this case…provided an inaccurate result.”
But there’s no evidence it produced an accurate result, either.
Stepka went on to say that the remedy for an administrative violation is not suppression. That’s where he’s wrong. Where administrative failures call the accuracy of the test result into question, suppression is the remedy. Here’s a court case that says so. Not ensuring the accuracy of the testing instrument calls into question the most fundamental nature of the test itself. Without calibration, the test didn’t happen.
The police have protocols for a reason. If they can still collect evidence without following the protocols, why do they have them?
The purpose of administrative protocols is to make sure that law enforcement is done fairly, competently and uniformly. The people who developed administrative protocols decided, in advance, what was necessary for officers to collect accurate information. Without requiring law enforcement to follow administrative rules, policing becomes arbitrary. Juries assume that police develop and follow protocols, so the nuances of ad-hoc, substandard law enforcement may be lost on the very audience charged with giving the victim a fair trial.
Since Judge Stepka doesn’t believe it’s necessary to exclude evidence when the police don’t follow their own rules, it’s going to take a law. There should be a law that says the police may not admit evidence gathered in violation of an administrative procedure. Without such a law, there is no incentive for the police to do their jobs in a thorough, competent and unbiased manner. Of course, the next thing that the police would do is refuse to have standards for anything, so the next step would be a task force to set standards.
It shouldn’t be necessary. The police should follow their own rules. Prosecutors shouldn’t charge cases with tainted evidence. The courts shouldn’t be like mmm, okay, when they don’t. But it is necessary.
It seems so basic. We shouldn’t have to say it. Dirty Traverse in 2020.