DC Blood and Urine Testing

DC has approved separate chemical tests to determine a person’s alcohol level. The first approved test is a breath chemical test analyzed by the Intoxilyzer or the Intoximeter. A second approved method is blood testing. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, it is best to consult with an experienced DC DUI lawyer.

Most jurisdictions, including DC, have implied consent laws. By driving a car on a public roadway, it is assumed that a driver has given consent to having a chemical test performed if they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances.

Although the driver usually has the right to refuse the test, refusal results in a mandatory suspension of driving privileges, often for a period longer than the suspension triggered by a DUI conviction. Given the possible consequences, it is crucial that anyone who has been charged with DUI or DWI retain the services of a well-qualified DUI attorney who has extensive experience with DC Blood and Urine Testing procedures.

Blood Testing

The arresting officer must follow certain guidelines established by law when requesting blood testing. First, in order to request a test, the officer must have a reasonable belief that the driver is impaired by alcohol or some other intoxicating substance. The officer must inform the driver of the right not to submit to chemical testing, and must explain the penalties they will face, including license revocation for refusing the test. Once all of this has been explained, the officer will ask the driver to sign an Implied Consent Form, attesting to the fact that the driver understands their rights and responsibilities regarding the test.

As breath testing is the preferred method of chemical testing for many police departments, blood testing is only utilized under special circumstances. These circumstances may include when a driver does not have the lung capacity necessary to develop enough breath for the Intoxilyzer to work properly, has sustained an injury that could impact the test results, or is being treated at a hospital where the police have access to a sample of drawn blood.

Under DC law, only a physician or nurse acting at the request of a police officer is permitted to withdraw blood in DUI cases. Two samples of blood will be drawn. At the suspect’s request, a third sample may be drawn for independent testing. A police officer will then take the blood samples, seal and place the vials into the blood kit, and transport the kit to the government-approved forensic laboratory for testing.

Blood Testing in A DUI Case

There are many aspects of blood tests that an experienced lawyer can successfully challenge to get the evidence of the test results suppressed at trial. For example, if the police do not refrigerate the blood within 24 hours of withdrawal, the natural fermentation process may significantly increase the alcohol level in the sample. There is no way to distinguish between alcohol that was present in the suspect’s blood at the time of withdrawal and alcohol created by fermentation. Also, if the anticoagulant or preservative in the vial are not properly mixed in a specific ratio, this could affect the blood alcohol level. Too much anticoagulant and preservative will draw out more alcohol in the vapor and distort test results.

Other challenges that could be raised include a chain of custody issues, fermentation, faulty or expired equipment, expired certifications, whether IV fluids were given before the blood draw, or whether the laboratory tested whole blood or plasma. Therefore, it helps to have an attorney who understands every aspect of the tests from how gas chromatography works, the standard operating procedures of forensic labs, and the legal requirements for withdrawing and analyzing blood samples.

Urine Testing

The third and final chemical test given to determine a driver’s BAC is a urine test. Urine tests are the least reliable method because the concentration of alcohol in the urine is approximately 1.33 times the concentration of alcohol in the blood at the same time.

Urine tests can only detect the inactive, leftover traces of previously ingested substances. Therefore, a person who smokes marijuana might test positive for the drug several days later, long after the drug has ceased to have any physical or neurological effect.

In DC, the Metropolitan Police Department began widespread use of urine tests in 2011 due to systemic problems with its breathalyzer program. It is imperative that you contact a DUI attorney if you are faced with the possibility or have already taken a blood, breath, or urine test. An experienced DUI attorney will be able to analyze the tests for any flaws, and provide the best defense against a conviction for DUI.

Role of an Attorney

In the event that a DC DUI attorney is able to challenge the results of the Government toxicology test through independent testing that does not necessarily mean that the Government cannot a prove person guilty for a DUI without toxicology results.

Toxicology results are an important piece of evidence that the Government uses, but is not the exclusive evidence. If a DC DUI attorney is able to successfully challenge the results of a toxicology test, the attorney would still need to challenge the reliability or the admissibility of the results of any standardized field sobriety test or the observations of the arresting officers that can be used as evidence of impairment. These observations could include testimony regarding a defendant’s speech, the defendant’s demeanor, and the defendant’s general appearance.

Police officers could also testify to any statements made by the defendant including any admission to consumption of alcohol or other controlled substances and any other observations that suggest impairment. After a DC DUI attorney challenges the results of a toxicology test at trial, then the next step would be for the attorney to also challenge the observations of the arresting officers and to possibly challenge the admissibility of any illegally or unconstitutionally obtained evidence.