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Confrontation Clause and DWI Cases – Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts

For years North Carolina, like many states, permitted the State to introduce the results of a DWI defendant’s breath test. That meant that the Defendant’s attorney would have no opportunity to question the breath analyst on the stand about the procedure used, whether the breath analyst was certified at the time the test was given, and whether all the rules and regulations were followed.

In June of 2009, the United States Supreme Court handed down the landmark Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts case, which turns on the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment which permits defendants to question all accusers at trial.

The Supreme Court ruled that it’s insufficient for the state merely to provide an affidavit. The state, in order to introduce evidence such as the results of lab tests, must provide the actual analyst so that the Defendant can have an opportunity to cross-examine the analyst.

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