An increasing number of police departments in Pennsylvania are choosing to ask motorists to submit to blood tests when they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Breathalyzer tests are less reliable than blood tests, making them easier for a Chester County PA DUI lawyer to challenge.
Breath tests might be suppressed when the machines are not properly calibrated, maintained, or certified. They can also be challenged when the administrator does not have current certification or fails to follow the precise administrative protocols when administering the breath test. As a result, blood tests are becoming the preferred method for completing chemical tests in DUI cases. Police officers are also likelier to ask people to submit to blood tests since these tests can check for the presence of other substances, including illegal drugs and prescription medications.
If you are arrested on suspicion of drunk or impaired driving, you might be asked to submit to a blood test. Here are five things that are important to know from DiCindio Law if you submitted a blood sample or were asked to do so following a DUI arrest.
1. Police Officers must obtain a search warrant or your consent
In Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled police officers must secure a search warrant before collecting a blood sample in most DUI cases. The court distinguished between blood and breath tests, finding that breath tests do not require a warrant since they are less invasive than blood tests. However, police officers can draw your blood without a warrant if you consent for them to do so. They are also allowed to draw blood without a warrant when a motorist is unconscious, and administering a breath test is not possible under Mitchell v. Wisconsin, 139 S. Ct. 2525 (2019).
However, while police officers generally need warrants to draw blood, this does not mean that you have a right to refuse a blood test. Instead, the Supreme Court’s decision disallowed states from making a refusal a separate criminal offense. Pennsylvania’s implied consent law, which is found in 75 Pa.C.S.1547, requires all drivers in the state to submit to chemical testing when they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While you can’t be charged with a separate crime for a refusal, you can face administrative penalties against your driver’s license and the criminal penalties for the highest BAC DUI.
2. DUI Cases Involving Blood Tests Move More Slowly Through the Court Process
When you submit to a breathalyzer test, the results are presented immediately. A DUI lawyer in Chester County can still challenge the results from a breathalyzer test by examining maintenance logs and certification records as well as video of the test administration.
By contrast, if you submit to a blood test, the sample must be collected, stored, and transported to the forensic laboratory for testing and analysis. This process can take a long time because the lab might be backed up with lab tests from many different criminal cases across the state to examine. Officers might wait for a long time before sending the blood sample to the lab, adding time to the total process while the sample is stored in the department’s evidence room.
3. Blood Test Results are More Reliable than Breath Test Results
The advantage of a breath test is that it provides immediate results to officers. However, a breath test will not indicate whether someone might be under the influence of drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs. Instead, it provides an estimate of the concentration of alcohol in your blood.
By contrast, blood tests directly measure the percentage of alcohol in your blood by analyzing its chemical content through gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy testing. When a blood sample is properly drawn, stored, transported, and analyzed, it will give more reliable and specific results.
A blood test will also tell analysts whether you have the presence of other substances in your system and can be retested to verify the results. However, blood tests cannot show whether or not people are impaired by the amounts of drugs in their systems. Instead, people who are found to have illegal drugs or controlled substances in their systems for which they do not have valid prescriptions will be charged with the highest BAC DUI, regardless of whether or not they are impaired.
4. While Blood Tests are More Reliable, They are Not Infallible
Despite their potential for heightened accuracy and reliability, blood tests might still give invalid results. Some of the reasons why a blood test might not be accurate include the following:
- Taking the sample too long after an arrest
- Contamination by other substances
- No clear separation between the chromatographic peaks for alcohol and other substances
- Fermentation caused by improper storage
- Using an alcohol swab to clean the area before taking the sample
5. An experienced attorney can challenge blood test results.
Knowledgeable DUI defense lawyers can carefully examine how the blood sample was drawn, stored, transported, and analyzed to determine whether any problems occurred. They can review the qualifications of the person who drew the blood and whether the proper procedures were followed. If any problems occurred during any part of the process, attorneys can challenge the results and ask for them to be suppressed from evidence. If successful, this type of motion could result in a reduction in your charges or an outright dismissal, depending on the other evidence the state has available to use against you.
How do I find a criminal defense attorney near me?
If you are facing DUI charges and submitted to a blood test, you should retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law is an experienced defense lawyer with previous experience working as a prosecutor. He knows how to challenge the evidence used in DUI cases. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610-430-3535.