Common Tests Used By Police In Prescription Drug-Related DUI Cases

What Generally Happens When Someone Is Pulled Over And An Officer Suspects They Are Under The Influence Of Something Other Than Alcohol? What Is The General Protocol?

Well, by the time they’ve made that decision, they’ve given the driver some of the standard field sobriety tests. I think that’s kind of normal in any DUI case. They give them the portable breath test. If that comes back as negative or “0,” then they’re saying, “Well, something’s going to be on board here. I believe the mindset that they have, so let’s do some further testing.”

At that point, they will go beyond the standard field sobriety test. They will do a test called the Romberg Test. That’s where they have the driver tilt their head back, close their eyes, and estimate 30 seconds. Another test that they would do is called the Lack of Convergence Test, which is where they check to see if the person has the inability to cross their eyes as they move a stimulus, like their finger, closer to the driver’s nose. Some of those tests are just to give them a little bit more information. If they see something based off of those tests, they’ll usually arrest them. What they should do at that point is take them back to the police department and have a specially trained officer called a drug recognition expert do a more thorough examination of them, where they check their pulse and temperature and things like that.

Usually, after they arrest the person, and after the person has failed the field sobriety tests or the drug recognition examination, they will then draw their blood. Most of the time, they will not draw the urine, but sometimes they draw both the blood and the urine. Our lab here in Utah requests a blood draw if it’s a case involving the question of impairment versus if the substance is just in their system. They will draw the blood after the arrest at the station before they book the suspect into jail or before they release them.

Can Someone Refuse To Take That Drug Test? If So, What Are The Consequences?

Yes, the driver can refuse to submit to those tests. If they do, the officer will read what’s called a Refusal Admonition, which is a warning stating that if they continue to refuse, then their license can be taken for 18 months for a first offense or 36 months if it’s a second offense. They can still refuse, but the consequences are pretty severe, and the officer has to warn the driver of those consequences.

Here’s the other kicker: in most cases, if the driver does refuse, the police will read them the Refusal Warning, and then if they still refuse, the officer will just go and get a warrant to draw the person’s blood. The officer is likely going to get the blood, because they can get a warrant nowadays in 10 to 30 minutes. Here in Utah, they call it an e-warrant. You basically email the request for the warrant to a judge who’s on call, and then that judge will review it. In most cases that I’ve seen, the judge approves the warrant and they get the blood anyway. I don’t recommend that anyone refuse the blood test.

How Reliable Are Those Blood Tests, And What Role Do They Play In Your Defense?

I don’t believe the blood tests are very reliable, in my experience. There are so many problems that can arise in a blood test case. That starts with the question of who’s drawing the blood. They have to be licensed, they have to draw it in such a manner that it doesn’t contaminate the blood, and they have to use the proper tubes, label the tubes properly, and properly store the blood until it gets to the lab. Then my big issue in most cases with these prescription medications is with the state lab itself, the procedures that they use, and the qualifications of the technicians at the lab.

Sometimes I don’t think that they use the best procedures. That’s just my experience. Just to give you an example of what can go wrong in a blood test case, we had one yesterday where the lab sent the results back. They didn’t test the blood; they just sent them back, because the officer didn’t write the person’s name on the vials of blood. The lab wasn’t going to analyze it because you have a problem here.

But that doesn’t address the actual question of the reliability of the blood tests. I don’t think they’re reliable. There are so many things that can go wrong while taking that blood and separating all the substances out of it and trying to tell you what’s there. There’s a lot of room for defense and to attack those types of cases.

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