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Change in cause of death may lead to reduced OVI charges

Criminal charges are dependent on evidence. A prosecutor must prove the elements of a charge beyond a reasonable doubt. If one of the elements of a crime is missing or is not proven, the case against a suspect typically fails. This is why in cases involving drugs, questions are often raised concerning how the police obtained the drugs, and sometimes, whether the substances are even illegal drugs.

This is why medical examiners and crime laboratory technicians are important. Their determinations can mean a charge may be dropped or enhanced. A recent case in Ohio involving a man charged with drunk driving highlights how important these determinations can be. He was first charged with felony aggravated vehicular homicide, but after the medical examiner changed the cause of death of the other driver from "blunt force trauma" to melanoma, the charges could be reduced to a misdemeanor.

While this case is unusual, it points to the importance of witness testimony in criminal cases involving specialized knowledge. In this case, the new finding was made after the previous medical examiner left the position for unknown reasons. 

There have been many incidents of errors or outright malfeasance in crime labs across the nation, where technicians may have incorrectly tested materials or may have taken short cuts that favored prosecutors.

Additionally, problems have been found with field drug tests and with breath testing equipment, and if not discovered, these errors can lead to a conviction that is not supported by the evidence. This is why it is always important to question aggressively all evidentiary claims made in a case.


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