Oral argument: March 2, 2011
Appealed from: Supreme Court of New Mexico (Feb. 12, 2010)
CONFRONTATION CLAUSE, SIXTH AMENDMENT, TESTIMONIAL STATEMENT, BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT ANALYSIS
Following an arrest for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Petitioner Donald Bullcoming’s blood was tested at the New Mexico Department of Health in order to determine his blood alcohol content (BAC). At trial, the laboratory’s report was admitted into evidence even though the actual analyst who performed the test was not a witness. Instead, another analyst from the Department of Health testified to the laboratory’s procedures and the machinery used to conduct the BAC test. On appeal, Bullcoming argues that the information in the report was testimonial and that, because the actual analyst was not a witness subject to cross-examination, his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was violated. Respondent New Mexico contends that the report is not testimonial because the testing analyst merely transcribed raw data and that, even if it is testimonial, Bullcoming’s confrontation rights were satisfied by the opportunity to retest the sample and cross-examine another analyst. To decide this case, the Supreme Court must balance a defendant’s right to confrontation against the burden that requiring the actual analyst to testify imposes on the state.