When a motorist is stopped and suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida, law enforcement officers will generally have alleged offenders submit to breath tests that are typically able to be performed in roadside settings and provide instant results. In certain cases, however, police may seek to have a person submit to a test of his or her blood.
Blood tests may be necessary in cases in which an individual is suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance—situations in which breath tests are meaningless. In other cases, blood tests may be necessary when a person refuses to provide a breath sample.
Blood testing is generally thought to be the most accurate form of testing available, but it is also the most invasive. Even when a person willingly submits to a blood test, Florida imposes very strict regulations relating to how samples should be stored and tested. Deviation from these requirements can make a blood sample inadmissible in court.
Were you recently arrested for drunk or drugged driving because of a blood test in South Florida? You will want to contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A. as soon as possible.
Our criminal defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale aggressively defend clients charged with DUI crimes in communities all over Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, and Broward County. Call (561) 557-8686 to have our lawyers review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of Blood Tests in Palm Beach County
The simplest way of performing a blood test in Florida involves a person consenting to such a test. Florida state law does allow for blood tests to be performed without consent in certain instances.
Under Florida Statute § 316.1932(1)(c), police may use a blood test when “the administration of a breath or urine test is impractical or impossible” and there is reasonable cause to believe an alleged offender was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or chemical or controlled substances.
Similarly, Florida Statute § 316.1933(1)(a) authorizes police officers to “use reasonable force if necessary” to require alleged offenders to submit to the administration of blood tests when the officers have probable cause to believe that a motor vehicle was driven by or in the actual physical control of the alleged offender while he or she was under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substances, or any controlled substances and caused the death or serious bodily injury of a human being.
Florida Statute § 316.1932(1)(f)2.b. further provides that when a health care provider providing medical care in a health care facility to a person injured in a motor vehicle crash becomes aware, as a result of any blood test performed in the course of that medical treatment, that the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) meets or exceeds the legal limit, the health care provider can notify a law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency.
Under Florida Statute § 316.1933(2)(a), the only people authorized to withdraw blood for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content thereof or the presence of chemical substances or controlled substances therein are:
Florida Administrative Rule 11D-8.012 establishes specific procedures relating to the collection and storage of samples that needs be followed when blood is drawn in DUI cases.
Even when a person tests positive for a controlled substance or a BAC in violation of state limits, that does not mean that a conviction is automatic. In drug cases especially, evidence of a controlled substance being in a person’s blood is not necessarily evidence that the drug was active at the time of the arrest.
Any one of a number of errors committed during the administration of a blood test can also lead to those test results being inadmissible in court. Without the evidence, a prosecutor will frequently be forced to significantly reduce or completely dismiss the criminal charges.
Some of the examples of possible issues with how blood tests are performed that can lead to the results being suppressed include, but are not limited to:
Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. ___ (2013) — Tyler McNeely was stopped for allegedly speeding and crossing the centerline. A police officer placed him under arrest after McNeely failed a battery of field sobriety tests and refused to submit to a portable breath test. He continued to refuse to submit to a breath test at the police station and a blood test at a nearby hospital, but the officer ordered a blood draw without McNeely’s consent. He was placed under arrest for drunk driving after the results of the blood test showed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.154 percent. McNeely moved to have the blood test result suppressed in court, and the trial court approved after concluding that the exigency exception to the warrant requirement did not apply. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed this decision, and the United States Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Missouri Supreme Court, writing “that in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.”
Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. ___ (2016) — View the full text of a United States Supreme Court that consolidated three cases of men convicted for drunk driving. Danny Birchfield refused to submit to a blood test required by North Dakota law, William Robert Bernard, Jr. was charged with test refusal in the first degree in Minnesota after refusing to take a breath test, and Steve Michael Beylund submitted to a blood test after he was informed he had to agree. The United States Supreme Court overturned Birchfield’s conviction, affirmed the conviction of Bernard, Jr., and sent Beylund’s case back to the lower court. Writing for the 7-1 majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Because breath tests are significantly less intrusive than blood tests and in most cases amply serve law enforcement interests, a breath test, but not a blood test, may be administered as a search incident to a lawful arrest for drunk driving.”
If you were arrested for a DUI offense in the Palm Beach County area after a blood test, it is in your best interest to immediately seek legal representation. Meltzer & Bell, P.A. represents individuals in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Jupiter, Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, and many other surrounding areas of South Florida.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can investigate how your test was conducted and fight to have any illegally obtained results declared inadmissible. You can have our attorneys provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (561) 557-8686 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.
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