Los Angeles DUI and Forced Blood Draws

  • May 25, 2017

    Since 1966 the state of California has used an old precedent that established authorization for police to request forced blood samples from apprehended suspects for driving under the influence. Refusing to comply with an investigation conducted by a police officer has commonly resulted in being forced to provide a blood sample with or without the need of a warrant for drivers who refuse the field test or taking the breathalyzer. That protocol no longer exists after the U.S. Supreme Court recently held in a Missouri case that physical invasion of the body of a DUI suspect is inherently a search and seizure evidence acquisition procedure that is so profound it requires a warrant for the evidence seizure to use in a prosecution. This federal court decision has changed the manner in which forced blood tests are conducted now because the officers always need a warrant to demand the suspect provide self-incriminating evidence. In short, the legal rights of the suspect are sovereign to the state position that they are not bound by the Constitution when timing matters in obtaining material evidence. The potential loss of incriminating evidence that erodes with time is not a reasonable means to achieve a legitimate governmental interest. The problem is that this still occurs without a warrant more often than people realize, and an aggressive Los Angeles DUI attorney can contest the actions of the officer in court.

    Police Protocol

    There are several factors that may be addressed concerning a forced blood draw after an accident or an arrest for driving under the influence. Police officers are always thinking about time when taking a suspect to a treatment facility because the suspect is gaining sobriety while in transit, which means evidence is evaporating. This can be very important in DUI arrests when the driver is borderline on the .08 BAC level needed for a conviction. A BAC of between .05 and .08 is reckless driving at most and can be plea bargained. Mistakes are common when police officers are in a rush to get a suspect to the hospital, even if they are being transported by an ambulance. Inaccurate information and failure to follow arrest protocol can be a valid basis for evidence suppression.

    Blood Withdrawal and Testing Protocol

    In order for a forced blood draw to be acquired legally all suspect blood samples must be withdrawn by a certified lab technician and then properly identified as being withdrawn from the suspect. The sample must be certified upon shipment and then certified delivered to the testing facility. This condition protects the integrity of the evidence and proves no one outside the designated legal chain of possession has potentially contaminated the evidence, which could result in a claim of reasonable doubt. Technicians must also certify that they did actually conduct the testing procedure. The same certified transfer procedure must be valid for the return of the evidence as well, which usually takes up to six weeks to receive by the court. Just as with a breathalyzer, the machinery used to test the blood sample must be certified and calibrated for proper working order. Any failure at the transfer points of the evidence can result in a contested claim of the sample being inadmissible evidence. A Los Angeles DUI attorney could also request the lab technician testify in court if a case is tried.

    Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on this issue nationally, winning a dismissal or a charge reduction may become easier for those who are arrested for driving under the influence needlessly. But it is still very important to contact an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney as soon as possible to ensure proper legal protocol is followed.

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