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Name: People v. Lopez
Case #: S177046
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 10/15/2012

Allowing the testing analyst’s colleague to testify regarding a laboratory report on a defendant’s blood alcohol level does not violate a the right of confrontation. Appellant drove after consuming several alcoholic beverages. She lost control of her vehicle and hit an oncoming car, killing the driver. Appellant was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. (Pen. Code, § 191.5, subd. (b).) The Court of Appeal initially affirmed the conviction, but upon remand by the Supreme Court following the Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts (2009) 557 U.S. 305, decision, reversed. It found appellant’s confrontation rights were abridged when the prosecution proved intoxication via a report prepared by a nontestifying laboratory analyst stating appellant’s blood alcohol content (BAC), which was admitted into evidence, and the testimony of the analyst’s colleague regarding the report. The prosecution’s petition for review was granted. Held: Reversed. To be testimonial, (1) the statement must be made with some degree of formality or solemnity and (2) the statement’s primary purpose must pertain to a criminal prosecution. The court did not have to determine the primary purpose of the report regarding appellant’s BAC because “the critical portions of the report were not made with the requisite degree of formality or solemnity to be considered testimonial.” The printout of the gas chromatography test contained “no statement from the operator attesting to the validity of the data.” Thus, its introduction did not implicate the right of confrontation. As to the chart which contained information linking appellant to the blood sample, it was not testimonial because it lacked the requisite degree of formality; it was an informal record of data for laboratory use. To the extent that other notations on the chart might be considered testimonial, the admission of this data was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

[Editor’s note: Lopez is one of three companion cases from the California Supreme Court addressing the confrontation clause. Justice Kennard authored the majority opinion with Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, Justice Baxter, Justice Werdegar, and Justice Chin concurring. Justice Werdegar wrote a concurring opinion with Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, Justice Baxter, and Justice Chin concurring. Justice Corrigan also authored a concurring opinion with Justice Baxter, Justice Werdegar, and Justice Chin concurring. Justice Liu dissented.]