How to Use Science to Fight for Justice

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This is the NCDD plaque that’s too heavy to hang on the wall.

My name is Attorney Marc Lopez, and I operate the Marc Lopez Law Firm in Indianapolis, Indiana. When you walk into my office in downtown Indianapolis, you see a large, black granite-type thing that announces I’ve completed the Advanced Curriculum in Forensic Science and Trial Advocacy offered by the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD).

Whenever someone asks why I’ve displayed this commendation so prominently, I end up reflecting on how far I’ve come and what I’ve sacrificed to get here.

My NCDD plaque—if being too heavy to hang on the wall disqualifies it from being a plaque, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what else to call this thing—is not a certification, and it doesn’t indicate a professional specialty. What it does is symbolize a difficult journey that took years to complete.

Back in 2015, I started down this path because I recognized something. I realized that most attorneys who offered DUI / OVWI defense didn’t actually know anything about DUI / OVWI defense. As a former DUI / OVWI prosecutor, I have firsthand experience of how challenging these cases can be.

I’ve seen that many attorneys don’t even make an effort to understand the science. They take people’s money, they go through the motions, and they plead them guilty. This sort of professional laziness drives me crazy.

I’m not interested in being a mediocre lawyer. I want to be good at something and to know that I’m doing the best that I possibly can. When the NCDD announced its Advanced Curriculum in Forensic Science and Trial Advocacy, it was a big deal for me.

Atlanta: 2015

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It all started with a weekend in Atlanta.

I got my feet wet in November of 2015 with Science as Your Best Defense: Learning to Teach Judges and Juries the Science and Law of Blood and Breath Alcohol Testing. This trip saw me leave home on a Thursday for an intensive weekend course in Atlanta and return home on a Sunday. I spent two entire days learning about the science of measurement, which is not nearly as boring as it sounds.

We all take a lot of things for granted, and those things include measurements and numbers. In reality, measurements aren’t nearly as straightforward as you might think. For example, if an officer tells you that you’ve blown a 0.08, the result is not actually 0.08. The official measurement is a range that reflects the testing instrument’s margin of error. This is basically true for everything we measure in life.

Whether I was absorbing nuanced scientific points or being introduced to the international ISO / IEC 17025 lab-testing standard, this course greatly increased my understanding of DUI / OVWI law. It’s fair to say that deciding to attend the Science as Your Best Defense course changed my entire practice. Improving myself required sacrifice, though, and it was hard being away from my wife and daughter. 

Fort Collins: 2016

My wife wasn’t wild about it, either. If she was annoyed at the prospect of being a single mother for a weekend, she was downright unhappy with me when I told her that the NCDD Advanced Course in Blood Alcohol Analysis and Trial Advocacy would take me to Fort Collins, Colorado for an entire week in May of 2016. 

This one was another game-changer, as I got an inside look at blood analysis in an actual laboratory. I learned the processes involved, the mistakes that chemists and lab technicians sometimes make, and the ways in which I could use those mistakes to benefit my clients. I credit my instructors—Attorneys Joe St. Louis and Andrew Mishlove—with changing my life and forever altering my perspective.  

I’m happy to report that my wife eventually came around. These trips may have looked like fun and games to her, but she’s made great strides in understanding how essential they are to my practice. My practice supports the family—how could it not be important?

My wife has been a rock-solid supporter, and I couldn’t have done it without her. The same goes for all of my family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers who have lent a hand, covered a hearing, or been there when I needed them.

Arlington: 2016

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Most lawyers don’t get this sort of hands-on, in-the-lab training.

In December of 2016, I attended and completed the Blood Drug Analysis and Trial Advocacy course in Arlington, Texas.

This difficult, week-long course built on the foundation of my blood alcohol analysis knowledge and expanded it to include laboratory tests designed to detect other intoxicants in the body.

You might think a week in Texas sounds like fun, but this was hard work—10 hours a day, in the lab, studying science and its applications.

New Orleans: 2017

The capstone to the NCDD’s science seminars took me to New Orleans in March of 2017 for the 24th Annual Mastering Scientific Evidence in DWI / DUI Cases course. This one brought it all together. For the main event, some of the most knowledgeable lawyers in the country performed a mock trial. Led by Attorneys Troy McKinney and Jay Messi, this course included some extensive analysis of breath and blood-testing issues. The highlights of this trip stick with me to this day.

So that’s what my NCDD plaque means to me. It stands for a journey that was both physical and educational. It reminds me how far I’m willing to go and how much I’m willing to sacrifice when I believe in something. To visitors, clients, and everyone else, it’s more like a symbol of integrity and authenticity—when it comes to DUI / OVWI law, this guy knows what he’s talking about.