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California Driving Under the Influence – Blood Test

When a person is stopped on a suspicion of driving while intoxicated, they are asked to take a field sobriety test. The field sobriety test taken at the scene of the stop is referred to as the Preliminary Alcohol Screening test (PAS) and is not mandatory. Whether a person chooses to take the PAS, or the mandatory test administered at the station, they have the option of taking the breath or the blood test.

The blood test is a direct analysis of the blood alcohol content, because it does not have to be converted into a measure of the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and is, therefore, more accurate. The test does, however, take two weeks to be analyzed and then the reading is returned.

Could there be any potential errors in the reading of the BAC from a Blood Test?

As with all evidence presented in court, there could be potential errors in the blood test reading. The blood sample given to a lab for analysis could be contaminated by the lab, the officers handling the blood, or by other toxins or chemicals. Additionally, the sample could also be switched erroneously with that of another sample causing a person’s BAC reading to be inaccurate.

If a driver feels that their blood test reading is inaccurate, they have the right to be re-tested by another lab or by their own doctor pursuant to the arrest. The drawback with this option is that it will take some time for the results to come back, and will warrant little consideration since a significant amount of time will have elapsed.

Safety guidelines for administering a Blood Test to test for BAC

A blood test may also be dismissed as evidence, or inaccurate evidence if it is not administered properly. California state law strictly regulates the administration of a blood test under Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. Under Title 17, the blood must be taken by a trained professional. Additionally, it must be kept free from contamination and the chain of custody must not be disrupted and accurately recorded. The chain of custody refers to all the people that have handled the sample.

Are there legal defenses for a person’s refusal to take the blood test?

Several defenses have been accepted by courts for a person’s refusal to take a blood test. If the person has a fear of needles and can prove so in court, the Judge is likely to excuse the refusal. If the person feels that the needle or conditions under which the test is administered are unsanitary, and can prove so in court, the Judge will also allow the refusal to be dismissed. It is important to note that if a person has a defense for refusing the take a blood test, they will still have to take a breath test unless they have a legal defense for failing to take either.