The Law Offices of John Phebus

Blood alcohol test results can be key to successful DUI defense

In the second round of a high-profile DUI case, the attorneys defending the founder of the International Polo Club is challenging the blood alcohol evidence the prosecution is trying to have admitted in the trial. The challenge is an excellent example of how the scientific technical aspects of a DUI charge can be the difference between a verdict of guilty or not guilty.

The defendant was convicted in a previous trial in 2012, but the judge ruled that juror misconduct should nullify the verdict. Now, with a second chance to exonerate the defendant, the defense claims that the blood sample obtained after an accident that killed another man is "unreliable" and "garbage." According to the prosecution, the man's BAC level was .177, more than twice the legal limit in the state where the arrest was made.

According to the defense, the sample is tainted because the diameter of the needle used to obtain it was too small which caused a bad result because red blood cells were destroyed by the smaller needle and it caused clotting. The prosecution's toxicologist denies that there was clotting and said that even if cells were destroyed, it would not affect the result.

In the world of DUI law, the results of blood alcohol content tests are used routinely to measure the condition of the defendant. But as with any technology, tests can be unreliable. Either the test itself can be tainted in some way, or human error can occur if the person who administers the test makes a mistake.

Even if neither of these errors occurs, the sample can be compromised in the chain of custody, which refers to everything from the point where the sample is taken to the lab where the sample is tested to the result of the sample when it ends up in the prosecutor's office.

Even though this case involves a high-profile defendant, anyone who has been charged with DUI in Arizona deserves a vigorous defense. As seen in this case, even the size of a needle can be used as a defense. But without the assistance of a qualified attorney, defendants may never know of the arguments available to them.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Goodman fights blood evidence before DUI manslaughter retrial," Marc Freeman, Sept. 24, 2014

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