Forensic Alcohol Program
The proper conviction and removal of drunk drivers from California's streets and highways provides important public health and safety benefits. In 2005, 1,719 California residents were killed in alcohol-related crashes, and thousands more were injured. Chemical testing to determine the concentration of alcohol in the blood of persons involved in traffic violations is a critical component of the state's efforts to control drunk driving. To enforce the state's driving under the influence (DUI) laws, there are 40 local forensic alcohol laboratories that conduct chemical testing of blood, breath, and urine. The California Department of Public Health's Food and Drug Laboratory Branch's Forensic Alcohol Program (FAP) regulates these forensic alcohol laboratories. The goals of the FAP are to ensure the competency of the 40 local forensic alcohol laboratories, the qualifications of the employees of the laboratories, and the accuracy of breath alcohol testing procedures used by law enforcement agencies.
Compliance with the requirements of the FAP regulations establishes the competence of the laboratories and the scientific validity of the forensic and breath alcohol analysis results, which can then be admitted into evidence in drunk driving cases. Reliable and accurate testing is required by California law enforcement agencies to ensure that drunk drivers are properly convicted and innocent drivers are not prosecuted unjustly because of faulty laboratory testing.
- Proficiency testing of the laboratories. FAP conducts regular proficiency tests in order to evaluate the accuracy of the forensic alcohol analyses performed by the laboratories. In addition, each employee of a laboratory is qualified based upon a proficiency test and a written examination. FAP conducts proficiency tests three times per year. Regular proficiency testing provides timely qualification of the employees of the laboratories and current evidence of the competence of laboratories and the tests performed.
- On-site inspections of the laboratories. Each forensic alcohol laboratory's facility must be inspected regularly to ensure that all regulatory requirements are being met and that the laboratory is properly documenting its procedures and using properly trained staff.
- Review and approval of laboratory methods and procedures. FAP reviews training programs submitted by the laboratories which are intended to qualify persons under the regulations in order to determine that they meet the required standards set forth in the regulations.
- Meetings of the Forensic Alcohol Review Committee