DUIs and Blood Testing

Do law enforcement officers need your consent to take a blood sample?

If you are stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, law enforcement officers will take steps to attempt to determine whether you are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  There are three main chemical tests that a police officer may request you undergo to confirm or deny your alcohol use: a blood, breath, or urine test. Blood tests can be requested due to any number of circumstances, including your refusal to submit to a breath test, a negative breath test but evidence of intoxication, or issues that could make a breath test unreliable.  Obtaining blood can be an intrusive ordeal to which many people may object. Our DUI defense lawyers in Phoenix, Arizona answer some frequently asked questions about DUI blood tests and your legal rights below.

Arizona’s Implied Consent Laws

Per Arizona law, when you receive a driver’s license, you give consent to submit to a test of your blood, breath, urine, or another substance to determine if you are intoxicated while driving.  The test shall be chosen by the law enforcement agency. If you refuse to submit to the officer’s selected test, your driver’s license will be suspended for a period of twelve months or longer if you have refused testing before.  

It is your decision as to whether you wish to consent to a requested blood or breath test.  Understand that your refusal will have consequences on your license. Additionally, you could potently still be arrested even if you refuse testing.  However, at times a refusal is your best potential option to avoid a clear cut conviction, especially when it is not your first DUI offense. Should the officer pursue a warrant for your blood test, refusal may no longer be an option.

Unconscious Drivers

For some time, Arizona police officers and authorities in other states made it a practice to take blood samples from drivers who were unconscious and suspected of a DUI without a warrant.  Drivers will at times be unconscious or deceased at the scene of an accident due to injuries suffered in the crash. Arizona state law held that dead or unconscious drivers were deemed not to have waived the consent to testing that they provided when receiving their driver’s license.

An Arizona man who was arrested in 2012 and had his blood drawn, though unconscious, challenged the law.  The Arizona Supreme Court ultimately ruled that police officers cannot take blood samples from an unconscious DUI suspect unless they have a search warrant or can prove that urgent circumstances exist, besides the natural dissipation of alcohol within one’s blood.  This decision is in line with a similar U.S. Supreme Court case from 2013.

Retesting Your Blood

Often, the police department will do the blood draw itself.  Many officers have training in phlebotomy, but blood testing requires strict adherence to the guidelines.  Blood samples that are contaminated, not stored under correct temperatures, or handled improperly may be invalid and subject to exclusion by the court.  If your blood is collected, you have the right to have the blood retested at an independent laboratory. Contact a DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible to ensure the blood is preserved so that you have the option for retesting.  Your attorney will assist you in determining whether you have valid grounds to challenge the blood tests and how best to fight your DUI charge.