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Are Jail DUI Blood Draws Valid?

Sep 2nd, 2016 Blood Testing

If you were arrested for drunk driving in Michigan, then you were probably asked to take either a breath or a blood test.  Michigan DUI laws require that such blood draws be performed in a “medical environment.”  This term is not defined.

In some Michigan municipalities the police will summon a person to come to the jail to draw the blood.  Is the jail a medical environment?  Common sense would suggest that it is not, but many courts have ruled that the jail is in fact a medical environment. However, this is not necessarily always true.  If you were arrested in Michigan for DUI and your blood was drawn in jail, the results may not be valid.

A California case recently addressed a similar issue.  In this case, which involved six separate cases that were consolidated, each defendant was arrested for driving under the influence, after which each was advised by the arresting officer that under California’s implied consent law he/she was required to take one of two chemical tests. All defendants opted for a blood test and were transported to either a   facility or, in one case to a hospital, to have their blood drawn.  The California court found as follows:

In all cases, the arresting or transporting officer witnessed blood draws performed by individuals whom the officers identified as phlebotomists, blood technicians or individuals who routinely draw blood. In general, the officers observed that the individual drawing blood cleaned the area before drawing blood and used a needle from a sealed package.

In five of the seven cases, the officers noted defendants did not appear to be in any pain or discomfort, and in any event, there was no evidence or testimony indicating any of the defendants claimed to be in pain or discomfort during the blood draw procedure. Finally, in five of the cases, the officers observed the injection area being bandaged following the blood draw.

Each defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence of the blood draw, and, on appeal from the trial court’s ruling, the majority of the appellate division concluded the prosecution failed to show the blood draw was performed in a reasonable manner under the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, the majority determined the evidence in these cases failed to demonstrate the blood draws met the constitutional standard of reasonableness because the police officers lacked the medical training necessary to testify whether each blood draw was performed in a medically approved manner and because (in all but one case) the blood draws were performed in a jail facility rather than in a hospital setting.

In each case the officer testified the blood draw was performed by a person the officer believed to be a trained phlebotomist or blood technician. These beliefs were supported either by the officer’s prior contacts with that person in the context of prior arrestee blood draws, by the procedure employed by the officer to cause that person to respond to the jail to perform the blood draw, or by the officer’s account that the person responded to his request for a phlebotomist at the hospital.

Additionally, the officers’ testimony confirmed that none of the defendants exhibited any signs of pain or discomfort during the blood draw procedure; indeed, the testimony reflects these were routine blood draws consistent either with the officer’s own experience of having blood drawn or with the officer’s observation of other arrestee blood draws. Moreover, the testimony reflects the blood draws were conducted in a cooperative manner, utilizing needles from sealed packages and ensuring the blood extraction area was cleaned prior to inserting the needle and cleaned and bandaged after the blood was drawn.

In sum, under the totality of the circumstances presented, in each case we conclude the officer’s un-rebutted testimony shows the blood draw did not expose the defendant to an unjustified element of personal risk of infection or pain and was not performed in a manner which created any “undue harm or risk” to defendant. In sum, we are persuaded the blood draws in these cases were conducted in a constitutionally reasonable manner.

The California court focused on the reasonableness of the blood draw.  Another equally important issue is why an improper blood draw can lead to falsely high blood test results.  This can happen because the environment itself is not relatively hygienic, thereby increasing the possibility of contamination; or because the technician drawing the blood fails to properly sterilize the arm; or because the wrong gage needle is used.  These are just a few of the possibilities and why a true medical environment is an important safeguard for people arrested for drunk driving in Michigan.

It would seem that police officer would not be the best person to determine if the blood draw was done according to the prevailing medical and scientific standards.  Unfortunately, it appears that the California court gave undue weight to the police officer’s testimony in this regard.

If you were arrested in Michigan for drunk driving, and your blood was drawn, then there may be a way to keep the blood test results from being used against you.  When you contact the Barone Defense Firm for your FREE case evaluation, we will discuss your options with you.