DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” meaning operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the effects of intoxicants such as alcohol. Each state has some version of a DUI statute that prohibits driving while intoxicated or under the influence. Some states classify different types of DUIs, such as alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and over the counter drugs (cough syrup, cold medicine, etc).
When a person is being charged with a DUI, a blood test may be utilized. Recently in 2016, the Supreme Court held it was unconstitutional to criminally charge for refusing to submit to a blood test. A DUI blood test takes a sample of a person’s blood and measures the amount of chemical substances in their blood. The blood tests are mostly accurate, since they pick up traces of any substance a person has ingested.
Typically, blood tests are not given at the scene, since only qualified people may administer the blood test. Further, each state has different regulations as to who is qualified to give a blood test, how the tests are taken, how the samples are transported, and how the tests are analyzed.
Generally, a person who is under the supervision of a qualified physician (a nurse), a physician, or someone who has been licensed in phlebotomy will be deemed capable of administering blood tests. Rarely, a certified police officer will be able to draw blood. As mentioned above, individuals qualified to administer a blood test will vary from state to state.
If a blood test was performed on you not by a qualified person, then you may challenge the blood test. This is because not following procedure may provide the reasonable doubt necessary to challenge the blood test.
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court also found that police need to first obtain a warrant in order to compel a driver to submit to a blood test, when they refuse to give consent. However, the Supreme Court decision does not extend or apply to breathalyzer tests, as no warrant is needed to administer a breathalyzer test, and a person may be charged criminally for refusing to perform one. Further, in 2019, the Supreme Court also no warrant is needed to collect blood from a person who is unconscious.
Further, every state has “implied consent” laws that impose penalties on drivers who refuse to submit to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or other chemical testing, when police have a basis to believe that the driver was operating the vehicle under the influence. The reasoning behind the implied consent laws is that driving is a privilege, and if you operate a motor vehicle, you are consenting to being subject to a DUI testing if you are suspected of a DUI. Penalties for not cooperating will vary from state to state, but a common penalty will be the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license.
Before a blood test is performed, the police are required to explain the procedure to you, as well as the penalties for refusing the blood test. Next, the police will ask you to submit to a blood test. Typically, a warrant is obtained very fast in DUI cases, in order to preserve evidence. If you refuse to consent or delay in doing a blood test, the decision to do so will be treated as a refusal that may result in a driver’s license suspension and other DUI penalties.
It is important to note that you are allowed to ask for a different or less intrusive test, such as a breath or urine test. However, if they are not available, then a blood test will be administered. If you agree to perform a blood test, a qualified person will swab your arm and use a needle to draw the blood, and process the results of the tests. As noted above, failure to properly follow procedure may result in you being able to suppress evidence of the blood test performed.
Blood tests are more reliable than a breathalyzer test, due to the blood being analyzed for the exact chemical content at the time of the draw. Further, breathalyzer tests often do not properly function or give an accurate read, requiring the test be administered multiple times to verify the results.
However, there are reasons as to why blood tests may be unreliable, including:
- The blood sample was drawn too long after the initial arrest;
- The blood sample was contaminated by the alcohol swab used before the blood was drawn or otherwise contaminated;
- The blood sample was improperly transported or stored; or
- The blood sample was not drawn by a person qualified to administer a blood test.
As mentioned above, there are many reasons how you or your attorney may challenge the legitimacy of a blood test. You may challenge the procedure that the blood test was administered, the accuracy of the technology utilized to analyze and draw a blood sample, or even the testimony of the arresting officer that resulted in the blood test being administered.
If a court finds that the reason for the blood test was improper, or that the correct procedure for administering a blood test was not followed, then it will be possible for the evidence and results of the blood test to be thrown out of court. This means that the blood test results will not be able to be used against you to convict you for your DUI charge.
As can be seen, challenging the results or administration of a blood test is often a complicated matter, as the results for blood tests are known to be reliable. However, if you have been subject to a blood test, and are facing prosecution for a DUI or DWI, you should immediately consult with an experienced and well qualified DUI attorney in your area to assist you with understanding your rights and defenses.
An experienced DUI attorney will be able to guide you through the process of challenging the blood test, if possible. They can also represent you in front of a court of law if necessary. Further, a DUI attorney will be able to help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the criminal process. They can help you get the charges against you dismissed or obtain a favorable sentence.