Arizona Blood Testing Policy in DUI Cases Raising Many Concerns
By: Mike Stetzer
A common yet not fully realized practice of having Arizona police officers draw blood from DUI suspects for BAC levels is the subject of much scrutiny in the state.
Under Arizona DUI law, a drunk driving suspect must submit to a BAC test or face a 12-month suspension of his or her driver's license. Arizona DUI law actually makes it the officer's choice to administer either a blood or breath test.
What may not be known to some, Arizona law enforcement officials have been drawing blood from drivers suspected of DUI for years. Law enforcement has said that this Arizona DUI blood testing policy is much more efficient than requiring an officer to drive to a hospital for a blood test. Arizona police also note how blood tests are much more accurate than breathalyzer tests.
While law enforcement may have accepted this Arizona blood testing policy for DUI, one man has filed what's believed to be the first personal injury claim stemming from this method after he developed an infection at the site of where his blood was drawn.
On March 27th of this year, James Green was pulled over by a Pima County sheriff's deputy and arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. The 31-year-old test pilot agreed to a blood draw when the arresting officer told him that he would have his driver's license suspended for a year if he did not comply.
The deputy then performed the blood draw in the back of his squad car despite the fact that he and the suspect were within walking distance of a medical center. It took the officer two tries to get the blood draw.
In his Arizona personal injury claim, Green says that his arm became swollen, red and infected around where the blood was drawn within a few hours. Some five months later, Green claimed that he had to go to the doctor for more antibiotics to treat the infection. Green's Arizona personal injury claim states that he can only work intermittently and may face long-term consequences to his health.
Green's Arizona personal injury attorney, James Charnesky, has already succeeded in getting his client's DUI charge dropped because of the way in which the blood was drawn and is now seeking $500,000 in punitive damages from the state.
Regardless of what you may think about the amount of money sought in this personal injury case, the debate concerning police officers drawing blood from DUI suspects is especially interesting.
DUI lawyers have argued that having a police officer draw blood from a DUI suspect is a bad idea for several reasons. To begin, DUI attorneys have claimed that police officers are not well-versed or trained in drawing blood (they would thus point to the fact that the officer needed two draws to extract blood from Green).
Arizona DUI lawyers have also said that police officers do not have the best interests of the person from whom the blood is coming in mind. In other words, these Arizona DUI attorneys have said that the officers are more concerned with getting the blood draw than with making sure that it is done correctly and with the suspect's best health interests in mind.
Consequently, Arizona DUI lawyers have argued that DUI suspects are being put at an unnecessary risk by this policy of officers drawing blood.
With all this considered, it will be interesting to see if any changes are made to this policy, especially when considering a recent announcement from the Phoenix Police Department. Starting in 2010, Phoenix police will only accept blood tests in DUI cases due to questions about the accuracy of its breathalyzer machines.