The DUI blood draw process 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.
Forced Blood Draws
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 have pre-packaged blood testing kits to help ensure the proper procedures 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 present. Adverse reactions may occur when placed in extreme temperatures, producing invalid results. These kits are often improperly resting in police officers' trunks, the storage and transport of the samples are often the subject of debate.
The testing site 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 collecting blood from a DUI suspect, the use of a non-alcohol swab is vital to prevent invalid results. Some states (such as New York) will dismiss a DUI conviction for use of alcohol swabs during collection. Iodine may cause interference with BAC results. Tell your attorney if alcohol or iodine was present during swabbing at your blood draw process.
Each state has rules and requirements for collecting blood samples in a DUI case. This includes 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.
During collection of blood samples 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 for preserving 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 comes into contact with a new person or place, there is a new link in the chain of custody. Documentation and reporting are crucial to this process. 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. This will typically include that proper procedures were in place.
Drawing blood is not ideal for every DUI suspect. Hemophiliacs should not receive blood test because doing so may be dangerous and life threatening.