Posts Tagged DUI Chemical Test
On New Year’s Eve, as 2016 draws to a close, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers will be out in force with multiple sobriety checkpoints throughout the state.
In East Tennessee, “No Refusal” Sobriety Checkpoints are planned in Knox, Loudon, Roane, Campbell, and Sevier County. For the exact locations and a full list of all planned checkpoints throughout the state, click here.
The term “No Refusal” relates to the use of chemical tests (blood, breath, or urine) to measure the concentration of alcohol or drugs in a person’s system. Usually, a person who is arrested for DUI has the right to refuse to consent to a chemical test, although there are exceptions to the right to refuse and there are consequences to refusing. If an arrestee refuses to consent, a law enforcement officer has the option of obtaining a search warrant that requires the arrestee to submit to a chemical test.
During “No Refusal” enforcement periods, like this holiday weekend, the Tennessee Highway Patrol typically has a Tennessee judge (or judges) on call. If a person is arrested for DUI and refuses to submit to a chemical test, and if the judge determines that the requisite legal grounds exist, the judge will issue a search warrant. This search warrant allows the officer to obtain a chemical test (most often a blood sample), even over the objection or refusal of the motorist placed under arrest.
Anyone arrested for DUI, or another related charge, should immediately contact a Tennessee DUI lawyer familiar with Tennessee DUI laws. For more information about the crime of driving under the influence (DUI) or about your legal rights with respect to a Tennessee Highway Patrol checkpoint, Steve, Sara, or AZ are available by calling 865-249-7200. You may also wish to visit www.tndui.com for more information about the offense of driving under the influence in Tennessee. Even during this busy holiday season, the DUI Defense attorneys at Oberman & Rice are available to speak with you 24/7.
About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants. Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee. Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.
He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 8th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen). Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions. He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.
In his March 7, 2012 post, Steve Oberman posed the question, “Would you want your blood taken by someone not certified to do so?” He was referring to Tennessee Senate Bill 2787/House Bill 2858, which eliminates the requirement that a phlebotomist permitted to draw blood from a Tennessee DUI suspect be certified or nationally registered. I am sorry to report that this bill passed, becoming Public Chapter No. 0666, and became effective on April 4, 2012.
This new law allows blood to be drawn by a “trained phlebotomist who is operating under a hospital protocol, has completed phlebotomy training through an educational entity providing such training, or has been properly trained by a current or former employer to draw blood.” The website www.phlebotomycertificationguide.com explains the typical certification process for phlebotomists and provides training course length than ranges from 4 to 24 months. As discussed in Steve’s previous post, Tennessee law does not specify the amount of training required. Certainly a very minimal amount of training could qualify one under this new law considering the fact that the person need only receive training from “a current or former employer.”
The lawyers at Oberman & Rice continue to monitor pending legislation that impacts the criminally accused, paying particular attention to those involving Tennessee DUI cases. Should you have any questions about a pending Tennessee DUI law or issue, you may contact Steve, Sara, or Nate by calling (865) 249-7200. You may also wish to review our website for additional information about Tennessee DUI Laws by clicking here.
In 2012 Senate Bill 2787, Senator Brian Kelsey, a Republican from Germantown (part of Shelby County), has sponsored a bill allowing a person who is “properly trained,” but not necessarily certified to draw the blood of a person suspected of DUI to determine alcohol and/or drug content. What should concern Tennessee citizens is that this bill removes the requirement found in current law (T.C.A. Section 55-10-410 which deals with drawing blood in driving under the influence/implied consent violation situations) that the person drawing the blood shall be:
A registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, clinical laboratory technologist, clinical laboratory technician, licensed emergency medical technician, licensed paramedic or, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, licensed emergency medical technician approved to establish intravenous catheters, technologist, or certified and/or nationally registered phlebotomist or at the direction of a medical examiner or other physician holding an unlimited license to practice medicine in Tennessee under procedures established by the department of health.
Remarkably, there are no provisions in this bill detailing the amount of training or even requiring that the person drawing the blood pass a proficiency test. Nor are there provisions requiring a judge to determine that probable cause (the legal grounds required for arrest) exists before the blood is taken from the body.
While I am certainly far from a health care professional, I have had substantial experience as a non-certified phlebotomist when I worked in a hospital blood laboratory, albeit about 35 years ago. I am aware of some of the potential complications from an improper blood draw such as thrombophlebitis, infection, damage to blood vessels, hematoma/bruising, and damage to the nerves near the venipuncture site.
Moreover, the proposed law gives no consideration to the fact that the officer may suffer from a contagious disease, is working in poor lighting conditions, or may be distracted by law enforcement duties during the blood draw. If a medical condition occurs during a blood draw—the criminally accused would have no immediate access to a healthcare provider for treatment. In some situations, such as infection, the symptoms, etc. may manifest long after the actual blood draw.
Not surprisingly, the proposed law provides that the person drawing blood shall not incur any civil or criminal liability as a result of drawing the blood, except for damages that may result from negligence. This means that a law enforcement officer with minimal training would be allowed to draw blood from a suspect with their arm on the hood of the police vehicle or similar unsterile environment. This could be done without supervision from any other person, opening the door to abuse and negligence that would be difficult to prove except in a rare circumstance where the invasion of one’s body would be documented by video.
In 2006, Ann Japenga, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote about her debilitating injury that, after much suffering, was determined to have been caused by the needle going through her vein and causing dangerous but invisible bleeding into her arm. The injury, caused by a phlebotomist in her doctor’s office, required surgery “to prevent permanent loss of the use of [her] arm, as well as a condition called “claw hand” that causes your digits to curl up like a sea anemone.” The full article can be accessed here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/30/health/30case.html.
Simply allowing the injured party to sue for negligence, as Senator Kelsey proposes, is not an appropriate remedy. This type of case would have limited allowances for recovery. With few exceptions, Tennessee law limits recovery against governmental entities to the amount of $300,000.00 pursuant to The Governmental Tort Liability Act. Furthermore, this type of recovery would likely require the services of a civil lawyer who would (and should) charge a fee for his or her services. Accordingly, the injured party would likely receive less than two-thirds of a recovery after attorney fees. Moreover, expert fees, deposition costs and other trial expenses would have to be borne by the injured party.
If you have ever had a medical professional who is certified to draw your blood need to “stick” you on several occasions to obtain a sufficient sample, you can only imagine the type of abuse a suspect would receive from an uncertified law enforcement official. I urge you to contact your Legislator to vote against this bill.
It is also most interesting that Senator Kelsey is sponsoring another bill making it a crime that carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail for a law enforcement officer to unlawfully install a tracking device on a person or object (2012 Senate Bill 3046). If he doesn’t trust a police officer to comply with a citizen’s right to privacy, how in the world would he expect an officer not to abuse a suspect when they stick a sharp object into their arm or other part of their body?
The lawyers at Oberman & Rice frequently monitor pending legislation that impacts the criminally accused, paying particular attention to those involving Tennessee DUI cases. Should you have any questions about a Tennessee DUI issue, you may contact Steve, Sara, or Nate by calling (865) 249-7200. You may also wish to review our website for additional information about Tennessee DUI Laws by clicking here.
A Tennessee DUI lawyer should never take a chemical or breath test at face value. Different testing procedures are used across Tennessee to determine the amount of alcohol in a driver’s blood. Some Tennessee law enforcement agencies choose to draw blood from a DUI suspect, others use a breath test, and some even obtain a urine sample for analysis.
No matter what testing mechanism is used, the tests are not foolproof. Machines malfunction. Like a toaster, dishwasher, or hair dryer, machines wear down and break over time. Devices that collect and analyze blood, breath and urine are no different. Some machines and methods are less reliable than others. The tests are further subject to error by those persons involved in the collection and analysis processes.
A Tennessee DUI attorney should be familiar with the different tests and machines used in Tennessee. Hiring a motivated Criminal Defense lawyer gives someone the opportunity to fight all of the facts. In some cases, it may be possible to prevent the chemical test result from being used as evidence.
Additional information about Tennessee DUI offenses can be found on our websites at www.tndui.com and www.duiknoxville.com. You may also speak with one of our attorneys, You may reach Steve Oberman, Sara Compher-Rice or Nate Evans, by calling (865) 249-7200.