Los Angeles DUI and Laboratory Errors
Drivers who are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence are given the option of taking either a breath test or a blood test to determine their blood alcohol content. Drivers arrested for driving under the influence of drugs only have the option of taking a blood test, as there is no breath test that can determine the presence or amount of drugs in a person’s system. While the results of the breath test are available immediately, the blood test involves drawing a blood sample from the driver and then sending it to a crime laboratory for analysis. The results of the blood test are often not known for several weeks or even months. While the blood test is often considered to be more reliable than the breath test, laboratory errors can occur that may open the door to challenge the DUI blood test results.
Blood testing must follow the specific guidelines set forth in Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. Once the blood draw has been performed, the driver’s blood sample must be collected and stored in a very specific way to ensure that the blood does not ferment and create its own alcoholic content. A chain of custody must be kept to ensure that the evidence is always accounted for and has not been tampered with or mixed up. However, even with these safeguards a typical law enforcement crime laboratory may have thousands of samples to process and analyze. Human errors can be made that can result in blood samples being comingled with the blood samples of other drivers or errors in handling that can ultimately affect the reliability of the blood test result.
Contamination is a potentially major problem that can occur in a laboratory setting. If samples are allowed to comingle with other blood samples or if the testing devices are not properly cleaned and sterilized, the results of the blood test could show a much higher BAC level. In addition, blood samples must be stored at specific temperatures and with sufficient amounts of preservatives to ensure the integrity of the blood sample. If these lab procedures were not followed, the defense may be able to challenge the blood test results. The judge may determine that the blood sample is inadmissible or the jury may consider flaws in the testing process when weighing the evidence against the defendant. It may be necessary to provide expert testimony from a toxicologist who is familiar with the blood testing process. The prosecution would have an opportunity to cross-examine the defense’s expert witness and can also call their own expert witness to rebut the claims of the defense’s toxicologist.
In California, a portion of the original blood sample must be preserved and the defense can request a blood split order to have this portion retested at an independent laboratory of his or her choosing. Often, the results of the retest may show that the BAC was lower than the original test and the prosecution may be willing to dismiss or significantly reduce the charges. In addition, drivers who are charged with driving under the drugs may request a blood split order so a quantitative test can be conducted. While law enforcement blood tests may only test for the presence of a narcotic, a quantitative test may show that the level of drugs was too low to have any impairing effect.
If you were arrested for DUI and selected the blood test, it is critical that you meet with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney immediately. Los Angeles DUI Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who understands that the blood test is not infallible and works with top experts and toxicologists to ensure his clients receive the most comprehensive defense possible.
For more information about Los Angeles DUI and laboratory errors, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.