DUI Blood Draw Process
As mentioned previously, the Blood Test is the most reliable and invasive method for measuring a person’s blood alcohol content (B.A.C.). Each state’s Implied Consent laws set forth the rules regarding when blood may be taken in a DUI case. Additionally, each state has its own rules and procedures regarding how, when, and who may draw your blood. In most states, only qualified medical personnel at a medical facility may take your blood. Who is considered to be “qualified personnel” also varies state to state. Typically only physicians, registered nurses, and phlebotomists may draw blood, and are required to do so at a hospital facility. Few states, however, such as Arizona, allow police officers with phlebotomist credentials to draw blood from a DUI suspect right on the scene.
In some states, the police may forcibly draw blood from certain DUI suspects. Although there are constitutional questions and concerns for allowing forced draws, federal courts have held that so long as a DUI defendant is under arrest, forcibly drawing blood without consent is permitted. Some states have added the requirement of a search warrant before the police may draw a suspects blood without permission. In other jurisdictions warrants are not required, the justification being that the risk of losing the evidence outweighs any constitutional concerns.
The amount of force that is permitted to obtain a blood sample differs in each jurisdiction.
In most states, the police are supplied with pre-packaged blood testing kits to help ensure the proper procedures are followed during the collection and transport of a DUI suspects blood sample. The kits contain all materials necessary for making the draw. Testing vials containing chemicals that help preserve the sample are included. Adverse reactions may occur when placed in extreme temperatures, producing invalid results. Since most often these kits are improperly stored in police officers’ trunks, the storage and transport of the samples are often the subject of debate.
The testing site where the blood is to be drawn from must be clean and free from dirt and bacteria. During blood draws taken in hospitals, nurses and medical staff typically clean the area with an alcohol swab. When drawing blood from a DUI suspect, however, a non-alcohol swab must be used to prevent invalid results. Some states (such as New York) have even reversed DUI convictions where an alcohol swab was used. Additionally, iodine has been known to cause interference with BAC results. If you were arrested for DUI and had your blood taken, be sure to tell your attorney if alcohol or iodine was used to clean your skin.
Each state has its own unique set of rules and requirements that must be followed when obtaining a blood sample in a DUI case. These rules are set out in individual state statutes and typically include procedures for drawing, sealing, labeling, and delivering the samples to the laboratory. Failure to strictly comply with these rules will result in a judge ruling the blood test result inadmissible in court.
When blood samples are drawn at a hospital by medical staff, procedural issues often arise. Hospital staff do not have set guidelines to follow to preserve the evidence, resulting in problems with the labeling and handling of the sample. Additionally, the techniques used to obtain and analyze the sample differ in a medical setting. Failure to comply with preservation and collection procedures will negatively affect the admissibility of the sample or even result in a dismissal of the case.
Each state also has labratory procedures that set forth rules and requirements that must be followed in order to preserve the blood sample before, during, and after laboratory testing. Improperly maintained samples could result in an erroneously elevated B.A.C. reading. Failure to strictly adhere to these rules could result in suppression of the evidence or even dismissal of the case. Each time the sample is handled by a new person or transported to a new place, a new link is added to the chain of custody that must be carefully documented and reported. To be admissible, blood samples must be carefully preserved and no links in the chain of custody can be broken. A lab technician must analyze each sample, and an expert must testify before the results may be admissible in court.
The burden is on the prosecution to establish the requisite foundation for the evidence to be admitted – typically including that proper procedures were followed
Drawing blood is not ideal for every DUI suspect. Hemophiliacs, for example, should not be given a blood test because doing so may be dangerous and life threatening.