Up to 11,000 DWI cases in Harris County impacted by recalled test tubes

Prosecutor calls the situation 'frightening'

By Megan Kennedy - Digital News Editor, Mario Diaz - Reporter

HOUSTON - Channel 2 Investigates learned of a massive recall Friday, involving medical devices used to preserve blood evidence, following a DWI arrest.

We have learned multiple law enforcement agencies in the Houston area have received a recall letter from the manufacturers of these blood evidence test tubes, informing them that tubes are compromised.

A "crucial" preservative was not included in some vials, according to a news release from the Houston Forensic Science Center. The preservative prevents the blood from clotting and the blood alcohol concentration from changing, according to the release.

"Staff trained to draw blood are supposed to check blood vials before use to ensure the powder is present. However, once the blood is in the vial it is impossible to know whether the preservative was in the tube," the release said.

Sean Teare, with the Harris County District Attorney's Office Vehicular Crimes Unit,  told Channel 2 Investigates that the recall could affect up to 11,000 defendants or cases, and that his office is conducting an immediate review. 

“This as scary as it gets,” Teare said. “This is a gross deviation from what we all expect and rely on in order to do our job and ensure the safety of the public.”

The impacted cases date back to August 2018. 

Concerns expressed by prosecutors resonate with defense attorney George Parnham, who feels cases may not move forward as a result.

“District Attorney offices, to their credit, will not want to go through a process of prosecution when there is a very key issue in question,” Parnham said.

 

Here is a statement from the Houston Police Department on the issue:

“The Houston Police Department received notice about a nationwide recall of blood vials used in DWI blood collection kits and is taking immediate action. We will work with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to determine how many cases may be impacted and address any potential legal issues.”

Here's a statement from the Harris County Sheriff's Office:

"The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is taking immediate action in response to a national recall of vials that law enforcement agencies use to collect blood from suspected drunken drivers.

"According to the manufacturer, BD, some vials are missing a necessary chemical that prevents blood from clotting inside the vial.

"The Harris County Sheriff’s Office uses BD vials to store blood samples taken from suspects arrested for DWI.

"Deputies typically use a different kit to collect blood samples for more serious intoxication manslaughter cases, and these kits are not believed to be impacted by the recall at this time.

"The Sheriff’s Office is actively working with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences to identify cases that may be impacted by the recall.

"In the meantime, all vials included in the recall are being collected from deputies and replaced with vials that are confirmed to be in good working order."

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