Forced Blood Draws by Cops in Back Seat

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on October 18th, 2007

I've posted in the past about the spreading practice of cops jabbing needles into DUI suspects to get blood for testing, often at roadside or in the back seat of a police car, rather than having a nurse or medical technician perform the draw or using a breathalyzer.  See Would You Want a Cop Taking Blood from You?,  Taking Blood by Force and Forceful Blood Draws by Cops: Constitutional?   The following recent news story shows one of the many reasons for questioning this barbaric procedure.

Blood Draws by Officers in

DUI Stops Questioned

Man files claim saying deputy infected arm
Phoenix, AZ.  Oct. 14  –  Attorneys are putting new scrutiny on a practice that has become common among law enforcement — having officers, not medical personnel, draw blood with syringes in suspected drunken driving cases.
That comes after a man developed a persistent infection at the site of a blood draw administered by a Pima County sheriff's deputy.
Law enforcement agencies say having officers do blood draws themselves is quicker and more convenient than going to a hospital and more accurate than a breath test.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department has relied exclusively on deputy-administered blood draws for years.
But defense attorneys have zeroed in on the practice, arguing police officers do not receive adequate training to do the blood draws, don't have the health and safety of suspects as their top priority and put suspects at unnecessary risk…
"I think most of the public does not realize that law enforcement personnel are doing the draws," said Michael Bloom, an attorney in the case.
According to the claim, James Green, a 31-year-old test pilot who works out of Pinal Air Park, was stopped by a sheriff's deputy March 27 and arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. After being told his driver's license would be suspended for 12 months if he did not consent to a blood test, he agreed to allow the draw.
Even though they were within walking distance of Northwest Medical Center, the deputy performed the blood draw in the back seat of his squad car. It took two tries to get a sample.
The claim says Green's arm became swollen and very red around the site of the blood draw within a few hours. Five months later, he had undergone several rounds of treatment with antibiotics and still had the infection. The claim says Green can work only intermittently because of the infection and may face long-term health consequences.
Charnesky, who specializes in DUI cases, said the practice started in Arizona but now is spreading to some counties in Utah and Texas.
Lt. Karl Woolridge, the Sheriff's Department Special Operations commander, said deputies do blood draws because blood is more accurate than breath, and the closer to the time of the crime the evidence is collected, the more accurate it is…
In 2004, charges were dropped against a man facing misdemeanor DUI charges after he said deputies used a stun gun against him three times to force him to submit to a blood draw. He said he was afraid of needles.
While having police officers do their own draws is now common in Pima County, medical experts expressed surprise at the practice.  
(Bold emphasis added.)

(Thanks to Andre Campos and David O'Shea.) 
  • LabMonkey

    The main concern when police are performing blood draws is they unlike in a health care setting where the primary concern is the health and well being of the “subject”, in the case of the phlebotocop the main concern is obtaining the evidence.

    When you see/hear about a dog-pile of officers on a subject who isn’t cooperating, it should raise concern about this practice.

    The fun thing about Arizona is that if someone refuses a chemical test, not only will you automatically lose your license for a year (implied consent), but then they will get you with the double-whammy of getting a court order over the phone/fax in minutes. At which point they will “force” a blood draw.

  • publicdefender

    Blood draws allow the police to take out a little bit of “street justice” on suspects who refuse to cooperate by sticking a needle in them.

    If an officer is angry with the suspect, he may present an unreasonable risk of harm to the suspect. Also, the officer is less likely to establish phlebotomy safety protocols.

    I have a client who was stabbed with a needle 5 times by a police officer before they took him to the hospital to get a blood draw. The client told the police that he had collapsed viens and they would not be able to get his blood. The police did not listen because there had be a scuffle and they were angry with my client. My client took pictures of the puncute wounds the next day. We have a hearing on the matted in December.

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