It is understood by law enforcement, lawyers and privy citizens alike that blood draws at the time of a DUI arrest are generally cumbersome. They require a legal warrant, transportation of the suspect to a hospital, the medical undertaking of drawing blood and finally, analyzing the blood work. Those suspected of a DUI sometimes opt for a blood draw if they choose not to submit to a breathalyzer test. Although blood tests produce more accurate results than breathalyzers, a significant amount of time almost always elapses between the traffic stop and blood draw.
Some have argued that the natural metabolism of blood alcohol amounts to destruction of evidence. The Supreme Court case Missouri vs. McNeely questioned whether law enforcement could force a blood draw from a suspect without a warrant so as to prevent the destruction of evidence.
The Supreme Court firmly ruled that a blood draw is a “search” under the Fourth Amendment and nonconsensual warrantless blood draws are a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Warrants were thereby reaffirmed as a requirement to blood draws in drunk driving cases. Now, a different aspect of the blood draw has come into question: who shall administer it.
DUI cases that require blood work have invariably involved transportation to a hospital, where a licensed medical professional performs the blood draw. Lakewood, Washington is the first in the state to propose and employ a different method. Lakewood Police Chief Mike Zaro has informed the press that six of his officers have completed phlebotomy courses at Bates Technical College and received certification from the Washington Department of Health. Lakewood law enforcement views this endeavor, which was commissioned by a $50,000 grant, in a positive light. They assert that it will help to speed up the process of DUI bookings. This new measure would also prevent the same degree of blood alcohol dissipation that occurs under normal, hospital blood-draw circumstances.
Some fear this places too much power in the hands of law enforcement and investigators. “It will still be done under a warrant and the equipment and procedure will be the same used in hospitals,” said Zaro. “The only difference is the person performing the procedure will be a Lakewood officer instead of a hospital employee.”
Authorities cite an increase in non-alcohol related DUIs as a reason to normalize usage of the blood draw during a suspected incident. The blood draws would not take place at the scene of the arrest but back at the police station. Some critics say that a station is not the proper scene to conduct a blood test. Nevertheless, Darrin Grondel of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission stated, “The time savings will allow officers to get out of the hospital waiting rooms and back on the roads to process more DUIs… Ultimately, this will make our roads safer.” The trained officers will see their first real-world application of this new skill during upcoming DUI emphasis patrols.
Police procedural error is an all too common source of botched or unjust DUI charges. Every person charged with driving under the influence deserves aggressive legal defense to fight the charges against them. If you have been charged with driving under the influence in the Seattle area, contact skilled DUI defense attorney Steve Karimi today for a free consultation.
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