What Can Affect California DUI Blood Test Results?
The legal limit for DUI in California is a blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) of .08% or higher. At this BAC level, you are automatically presumed to be impaired by the alcohol in your system. However, you do not have to have a BAC above the legal limit to be charged with driving under the influence.
DUI Blood Testing: How to Challenge the Results in Your DUI Case
California uses a variety of tests to determine the BAC in a driver’s system. Breath and blood tests are the most common chemical tests for DUI. However, numerous conditions and factors could affect California DUI blood test results. If the police charge you with driving under the influence, contact a Southern California DUI lawyer for a free consultation to discuss potential DUI defenses and ways that you can challenge the results of a chemical blood test for BAC levels.
How Does a DUI Blood Test Work?
A qualified technician must perform blood tests in a DUI case. After a DUI arrest, the officer informs you that you must take a chemical test as required by California’s implied consent law (California Vehicle Code §23612). The officer explains that you must provide either a breath sample or a blood sample for chemical testing. Urine tests are only used when breath and blood samples cannot be obtained.
A technician uses an alcohol swab to clean your arm before drawing the blood. Then, the blood is sent to a lab for testing. There are precise rules which must be followed in the DUI Blood Test process.
Are DUI Blood Tests Reliable?
When a blood sample is taken, preserved, and tested correctly, it can be one of the most reliable ways to determine the amount of alcohol in your blood. The test detects the actual chemical content of the blood. Breathalyzers use a formula to estimate the BAC level based on the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath.
What Can Affect a Blood Alcohol Test and Cause a False BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) Result?
Blood tests can result in inaccurate results. Many factors could impact the results of a blood alcohol test. Some factors that could result in an inaccurate BAC result from a blood test include:
- The blood sample fermented before performing the BAC test;
- The blood draw was performed too long after the DUI arrest resulting in rising alcohol levels;
- The use of alcohol swabs to clean the areas before drawing blood;
- Certain health conditions of the person being tested;
- Failure to use a vial with the correct amounts of anti-coagulant and preservative;
- Using expired preservatives and/or anti-coagulants; and
- The blood sample was improperly collected and/or stored.
Because factors can result in inaccurate DUI blood test results, it is always in your best interest to discuss your DUI case with a Los Angeles DUI attorney before pleading guilty or accepting a DUI plea bargain.
Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Blood Tests in California
Because law enforcement officers almost always ask the driver for a blood sample, drivers often have questions about a blood draw after a DUI arrest. Below are answers to some of the most common FAQs about California DUI blood tests.
Can I Have a Lawyer Challenge My DUI Blood Test?
Yes, a Southern California DUI attorney can challenge the results of chemical testing for BAC levels. Whether you have grounds to contest the results depends on the facts of your case. Contact an expert DUI lawyer for a free consultation. A judge may exclude test results that could be inaccurate. The state would then need to prove you were intoxicated while driving a motor vehicle.
Can I Have a Different Laboratory Test the Blood Sample?
Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations provides the procedures for drawing, testing, and storing blood samples for DUI cases to comply with California Vehicle Code §23158.
In 17 CCR §1219.1, the regulations require that technicians collect a sufficient blood sample to provide for multiple tests. Individuals have up to one year after collecting their blood to request a sample for independent testing.
If you hire a defense attorney, they should request a portion of your blood to have it retested at an independent laboratory. If the prosecution refuses the request, the attorney files a “blood split motion” with the court asking for an order compelling the prosecutor to provide a sample of the blood for independent testing.
What if the Technician Used an Alcohol Swab Before the Blood Test? Can Alcohol Swab Affect Blood Alcohol Test?
Using an alcohol swab to clean the areas before drawing blood can impact the results of the test. Technicians violate Title 17 regulations if they use alcohol or a similar product to clean the area before a blood draw. Instead, technicians must use a non-alcoholic disinfectant to prep the skin for drawing blood.
How Long Does Blood Work Take to Come Back for Alcohol?
Several factors impact the timeline for blood work to come back from a lab. The lab’s backlog of tests is often the deciding factor in how long it takes to get results. It typically takes four to eight weeks to receive the results of a BAC test. However, it could take much longer if there are problems with the sample or the lab has a backlog of samples to test. The same is true with private laboratories that a California DUI defense lawyer might use to perform independent testing of DUI blood samples.
The results of breath tests are instant. However, officers do not preserve a sample of your breath. Therefore, there is no way to perform an independent test on the breath sample you provided after your DUI arrest.
Is Refusing a Blood Test a Good Idea or a Bad Idea? What Happens if I Refuse Chemical Testing?
It depends on the situation. Most people do not refuse a chemical test because there are penalties for refusing testing after a lawful DUI arrest. However, many drivers choose a breath test because it is less invasive than a blood test. Unfortunately, a breath test has a higher chance of being inaccurate than blood testing.
Why Is Attacking the Blood Test Results Such a Big Deal?
California Vehicle Code §23152 makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit of .08%. It also makes it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is much easier for the state to prove you are guilty of drunk driving when it has test results showing your BAC exceeded the limits set by law.
Without the results of a blood test, the prosecutor must prove that you were “impaired” by alcohol or drugs in your system. Being impaired means you cannot operate the vehicle with the same level of care as a reasonably cautious sober person. Because impairment is a subjective conclusion, obtaining a DUI conviction without proof that the person’s BAC was above the legal limit can be more challenging.
Can I Still Fight the Blood Test if I Was Drinking or Using Drugs?
It is common for California DUI lawyers to challenge blood tests even if their client was drinking or using drugs. Again, for DUI charges, the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Officers must follow regulations and statutes for chemical testing after a DUI arrest. Any slight error or deviation could be grounds for calling into question the results of a BAC test. The case might come down to expert witnesses testifying during a trial with differing opinions about whether the test results were accurate or inaccurate. Jurors would have to decide what to accept as fact.
When Is a DUI Blood Test Required in California Law?
Drivers are required to provide samples for testing after they are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence or DUI per se. Generally, the driver must choose between providing a blood or breath sample. However, there are exceptions to the rule.
For example, an officer can require a blood test if there is reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence of drugs. Also, the officer may require a blood sample when the driver is unconscious or deceased. Drivers taken to medical facilities that do not have breath testing equipment might be required to provide a blood sample.
Is It Better to Take a DUI Blood Test or Breath Test?
Breath tests are less invasive and faster, so many drivers choose a breathalyzer test. They blow into the mouthpiece to provide the breath sample. However, not everyone can provide a deep lung air sample required for a breathalyzer test’s accuracy. They might be unconscious or have a health condition that prevents them from breathing deeply.
Other drivers prefer a DUI blood test because they know that it measures the alcohol in their system instead of estimating BAC levels. Partition ratios are crucial components of the breathalyzer test, and the ratios are set by law. However, a driver may have a different partition ratio, which could impact the test results. Furthermore, breath samples cannot be preserved for retesting like blood samples.
What are the Title 17 Regulations?
Title 17 regulations refer to Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. It provides detailed rules and procedures for collecting, testing, and storing chemical test samples. Violations of any of the provisions by officers, technicians, or labs could result in inaccurate test results. It could also give the court grounds to make the DUI test results inadmissible in court.
Are Blood Test Results Presumed to Be Valid?
There is a presumption that the results of a blood-alcohol test are accurate. In other words, the defendant has the burden of proving that the results are inaccurate. Title 17 procedures are often used to challenge the results of a test. However, a judge could find that the defendant’s constitutional rights were not violated. If so, the judge may allow the test results to be used as evidence during the trial even though there were violations of Title 17 regulations.
Forced Blood Draws – Can the Police Force a Person to Take a Blood Test?
There are very few cases where a person’s blood can be taken without a warrant. In the case of Birchfield v. North Dakota, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a warrantless breath test did not violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights. However, warrantless blood tests do.
The case only applies when a state makes it a crime to refuse a blood test after a DUI arrest. California does not criminalize refusing a chemical test. Instead, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) administratively suspends a person’s driver’s license. The person only faces an enhanced penalty for test refusal if convicted of drunk driving.
A judge may issue a warrant for a blood sample resulting in a forced blood draw. A person can be physically forced to provide a blood sample if the police have a warrant.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Dispute My Blood Test Results?
If the police arrest you for driving under the influence, it is always in your best interest to call a Southern California DUI attorney for a free consultation. There could be one or more valid grounds for challenging the blood test results that could result in a dismissal or acquittal. You won’t know until you talk with an experienced defense lawyer.
Talk To A DUI Defense Attorney
You may have defenses to felony charges or may be able to get them reduced to a misdemeanor or “wet reckless” charges. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. A lawyer serving DUI clients will often offer a free no obligation consultation and everything discussed is protected by the attorney client relationship.
Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.