If you have been arrested in Michigan for a DUI, you will be taken into custody where an officer will request you submit to a chemical test of his choosing. It could be breath, blood, or urine. Breath tests are the most common which are done on the DataMaster machine. Blood draws are the next most common. Usually blood draws occur when the driver has been in an accident and the hospital performs one as a part of their standard procedures, the chemical breath machine is not working, hasn’t been calibrated or serviced, or a certified DataMaster operator is unavailable, or the officer suspects the driver of using drugs (because a breath test will only reveal alcohol).
If you refuse to submit to the officer’s request for a chemical test, you will be in violation of Michigan’s implied consent law and your license will be suspended and six points will be added to your driving record. The police can get a warrant to do a blood draw if you refuse if they present probable cause to a judge. If you submit to the officer’s request, you may have another chemical test performed of your choosing at your expense.
Admissibility of Blood Tests in OWI Cases
In order for blood test results to be admissible in an OWI trial, the prosecution has to prove the following conditions were met:
- The blood test was taken in a timely manner
- The sample was from a particular person
- The blood draw was taken by an authorized physician, medical technologist, or a registered nurse designated by the physician
- Sterilized instruments were used
- The sample was properly preserved and labeled
- Proper methods of transportation were used
- Proper methods were used in the blood sample withdrawal
- Identity of the supervising person, under whose care the sample was withdrawn, was established
What Happens in an OWI Blood Draw
It is important that you are represented by an OWI attorney that understands the complex process of blood draws in drunk and drugged driving cases. It is important your attorney knows what to look for and file the proper motions to either suppress the blood tests results for improper procedures or call into question the reliability of the results at trial during cross examination.
Scientific Testing Procedures for Blood Draws
A proper test procedure requires use of a control sample, a test sample, and two analyses of the test sample. A test sample is a sample of a substance at a known concentration. For example, a known ethyl alcohol concentration in blood. A control sample contains all of the substances normally found in the substance to be tested, except for the substance of interest, e.g. ethyl alcohol. The purpose of the control sample is to demonstrate that the test instrument will not reveal a result based on substances common in the tested subject, thus giving a false positive. For blood draws, the control sample is blood without alcohol.
It is important to understand that it is not really the driver’s “blood” that is being analyzed. Rather, it is a comparison of known and unknown volatiles. The Michigan State Police (MSP) Forensic Lab receives a sealed kit with the subject’s blood sample contained in two separate 10ml tubes. The kits are supposed to be mailed by the participating officer via first class mail. Once received and documented by an MSP lab technician, it is placed into a temperature-controlled storage room. It is presumed the tubes contain a known amount of preservative and anti-coagulant (100 mg of sodium fluoride and 20mg of potassium oxalate) in order to preserve the integrity of the sample. One tube will be tested by the MSP and the other tube is available for testing by the defendant if he chooses to. Even at this stage the lab does not have your blood, but a mixture.
Methods of Testing Blood Samples
There are three generally used methods of blood testing.
- Dichromate Procedure—This is not a specific test for ethyl alcohol. It may show a reaction to acetone, acetaldehyde, wood, or rubbing alcohol. Wood and rubbing alcohol are not usually found in the bloodstream but are found in laboratories.
- Enzymatic Procedure—This procedure uses the same enzyme found normally in the body.
- Gas Chromatography—This procedure is specific for ethyl alcohol and uses separate volatile substances. Other substances during the test are not registered and is specific only for ethyl alcohol. This is the most commonly used and the most scientifically reliable. It is the method used by the MSP labs.
Whole Blood Versus Serum
The blood alcohol results can be from testing serum, plasma, or whole blood. It is important your OWI lawyer understand the difference. The administrative rules governing blood tests require that serum or plasma alcohol concentrations be translated into an equivalent whole blood alcohol concentration. The MSP forensic labs test whole blood using gas chromatography.
Hospitals use an enzymatic method when analyzing blood alcohol. It tests serum, not whole blood that contains cellular material and clotting proteins. The results using serum may not correlate to the results using whole blood because serum contains approximately 1.6 times more alcohol than whole blood. Some scientific studies and journals have concluded that the blood alcohol concentration in serum can be as 10-30 times higher than whole blood. Thus, serum can yield a much higher blood alcohol content (BAC). While there is no Michigan appellate decisions directly on point, the trend in other states is to preclude using serum or plasma results as evidence unless a conversion method is used demonstrating the blood alcohol equivalent in whole blood.
Are Blood Draws Reliable in DUI Cases?
Of the three chemical tests (breath, blood, and urine), blood tests are the most reliable. No one disputes that. However, there is a whole lot more that can go wrong with blood tests than any of the other chemical tests. It is important that you have an OWI attorney that is familiar with the testing procedures and forensic science to properly evaluate your case. An experienced and trained eye will know what to look for. There may be chain of custody issues where numerous people are checking out the test tubes or there are periods of time that the whereabouts of the test tube cannot be accounted for. This is especially important if they cannot prove that the test tubes were in a certain temperature controlled environment as required by the administrative rules. This can lead to a suppression of the evidence or can be used to cast serious doubt in the jury’s minds as to the reliability and accuracy of the test results.
Michigan OWI Attorney
If you have been charged with an OWI offense, it is important that you are represented by someone that devotes a substantial part of their practice to drunk and drugged driving defense. It is too complex and the consequences too serious to go with a lawyer who merely “dabbles” in DUI defense. Contact Austin Legal Services, PLC today at (517) 614-1983 for a free consultation with our Michigan OWI attorney.
Representing felony OWI cases throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Jackson, Livingston, Kent, Washtenaw, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Shiawassee, Barry in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, St. Johns, Ithaca, Charlotte, Jackson, Brighton, Howell, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Hastings, Corunna, Durand.