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Understanding DUI/DWI Arrests and Blood Tests in California

Intoxicated driving in California is a serious criminal charge. During a DUI/DWI investigation, an officer may request a blood sample. This is especially true when an alleged suspect refuses a breathalyzer test or a police officer believes drugs intoxicate the suspect. If you do not agree to it, a warrant may be issued, and at that time, a blood sample will be taken with or without your consent. A lot of confusion surrounds your rights and obligations regarding drunk driving and blood tests. To do one thing and not the other can have a significant impact on any criminal charges laid against you or administrative penalties imposed on you in California.

At Compass Legal Group, APC, our DUI/DWI defense attorney in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties wants to ensure you, as our client, are informed and understand both your rights and the consequences that flow from missteps taken when encountering the police during a DUI/DWI investigation. Contact us today at (805) 852-5141 to schedule a Free 30-minute Consultation.

What are DUI/DWI Blood Tests?

DUI/DWI blood tests are chemical tests commonly used in California by the police to determine or verify whether and to what extent an individual unlawfully has alcohol or drugs in their system. It is used most often in two circumstances:

  1. The alleged drunk driver has refused to perform a breath test; and/or
  2. The police believe the driver might be under the influence of drugs, including prescription medication or any illicit drug.

Blood tests produce more accurate results than the other chemical tests associated with intoxicated driving cases: breath and urine tests. A blood test is also much more intrusive. With breath tests, you blow into the testing machine. With urine tests, you urinate into a cup. With blood tests, however, a qualified medical professional must draw blood to collect a test sample.

Can I Refuse a Blood Test in California?

The simple answer is yes. However, remember that a refusal in California can have significant consequences. The same is true even if you are never convicted of an intoxicated driving offense in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties. You will still be hit with administrative penalties.

The problem is this: implied consent laws.

When you obtain a driver's license and drive anywhere in the United States, you have implicitly implied to agree to obey the laws of each state, and each state has its own version of implied consent laws. Basically, by agreeing to obey the rules of the road, you also implicitly agree to chemical tests.

Thus, if you are suspected of drunk driving and are asked to consent to a breath or blood test but refuse, automatic administrative penalties are placed on you. These penalties include fines and license suspension.

If you refuse to give a blood sample (or breath sample), the police can quickly obtain a warrant to collect a sample. In the end, if you refuse, you will likely still have to give a blood sample.

When Are DUI/DWI Blood Tests Allowed in California?

Police must have probable cause that you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs before they can administer a blood test. Probable cause can be obtained in many ways, like slurred speech, a failed sobriety test, or the smell of alcohol or drugs, among other potential indicators.

If probable cause exists, a blood test can only be administered in most states if one of the following occurs:

  • The driver signs a waiver.
  • The driver consents.
  • The police officer obtains a search warrant authorizing the blood test.
  • Exigent circumstances exist and qualify as an exception to the search warrant requirement.

DUI/DWI Blood Tests in California Can Be Unreliable

Blood tests provide better results than breath tests. Not only can a blood test determine a more accurate blood alcohol content (BAC) level, but it can also identify specific drugs and the amount of those drugs in your system.

That said, even if they are more accurate, they can still be unreliable when certain issues are present.

Common situations that could lead to the suppression of a blood test result in DUI/DWI cases in California include:

  • Too long of a waiting period between arrest and administration of the blood test
  • Contamination of the blood sample
  • Improper preservation or storage
  • Improper transportation of the sample
  • A gap in the sample's chain of custody
  • Drawing of the blood sample by an unqualified person

In addition, the technology and machines used to analyze the blood samples could have problems that make the results unreliable. These machines require regular maintenance but are often neglected.

DUI/DWI defense attorneys in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties with the right experience, knowledge, and skill in these types of cases will be able to identify unreliable blood test results. A motion to suppress or exclude the results can be timely filed and strategically used in your defense.

How DUI/DWI Defense Lawyers Can Challenge Blood Tests

DUI/DWI blood tests can be excluded from evidence under certain circumstances. A defense lawyer should identify those circumstances and take immediate action to exclude the evidence.

As noted above, a court can exclude blood test results when conditions make the results unreliable (e.g., mishandling of the sample). The court may also suppress blood test results when a defense lawyer can prove there was:

  • Prosecutorial misconduct
  • Police misconduct
  • Issuance or enforcement of an invalid warrant
  • Violation of your constitutional rights

Your defense attorney still has options when blood tests are admitted into evidence. For example, they can

  • Retain an independent lab to perform additional blood testing
  • Hire an expert to testify about any circumstances that could have produced inaccurate results

Finding the right DUI/DWI defense lawyer in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties will be critical to a successful outcome in your DUI/DWI case.

Contact a Skilled DUI/DWI Defense Attorney in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties Today

At Compass Legal Group, APC, our DUI/DWI defense attorney understands the complex nature of California intoxicated driving laws, the technical and scientific aspects of blood tests, and how to strategically fight the allegations to get the best outcome in your unique case.

We want you to know that just because you are charged with DUI/DWI offenses does not mean you will be found guilty. You can successfully defend against these charges, but you need a DUI/DWI defense lawyer to help you. Call our office today at (805) 852-5141 or complete an online form to schedule a Free 30-minute Consultation.

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Compass Legal Group is committed to you. We understand the stress you're shouldering, and strive to make the process as simple and affordable as possible. We offer free consultations to discuss your case, at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.