Recently, Samantha Beauchamp from the Michigan State Police Toxicology Unit testified in a marijuana driving case. Over objection, she was qualified as an expert in a field that would normally be reserved for an actual toxicologist. Ms. Beauchamp is a laboratory analyst with a BA in chemistry and molecular biology/biochemistry from 2008. She is not a toxicologist.
Ms. Beauchamp testified that, in her expert opinion, 20 ng/mL THC was a “high” result. She was unable to directly share a source to verify her opinion, and the peer-reviewed article she relied upon specifically disagreed with her conclusion. Our firm promptly requested access to the documentary data that she elusively pointed to in order to support her opinion.
In the meanwhile, attorney Beth LaCosse from the Upper Peninsula obtained the Michigan State Police Toxicology Unit’s internal methodologies for marijuana blood testing. These policies date back several years, showing how the MSP have changed their scientific method to fit the prevailing law. Good science does not follow the law. It should be the other way around, but this reveals that the MSP is a political body. The folks in the toxicology unit are laboratory technicians trained to provide biased opinions not well-grounded in science.
In essence, the MSP wants to provide free experts for prosecutors around the state to use whenever an issue crops up in a DUI case. Judges acting as gatekeepers against junk science need to pay careful attention to the qualifications of these free prosecutorial experts. (In many instances, judges are far more inclined to attack defense experts, viewing these people as hired guns.)
But back to Beth LaCosse… Beth uncovered the MSP internal guidelines for testing blood for the presence of THC, the active drug in marijuana. These documents reveal that Ms. Beauchamp provided an “expert opinion” that was contrary to her own lab’s internal policies. MSP guidelines reflect that 10 ng/mL is a low result, while 50 ng/mL is a high result. Setting aside the prevailing scientific opinion that little can be gleaned from a numerical result, Ms. Beauchamp’s opinion was exactly what the government wanted to hear, even though it is contrary to the laboratory’s own policies.
I guess you get what you pay for…
We have posted the guidelines for everyone to review here.