Intoxicated driving in Virginia is a serious criminal charge. During a DUI investigation, an officer may request a blood sample. This is especially true when an alleged suspect refuses a breathalyzer test or a police officer believes the suspect is intoxicated by drugs. If you do not agree to it, a warrant may be issued, and at that time, a blood sample could be taken with or without your consent.
A lot of confusion surrounds what your rights and obligations are with respect to drunk driving and blood tests. To do one thing and not the other can have a significant impact on any criminal charges laid against you or administrative penalties imposed on you in Virginia.
At S.L. England, PLLC, we want to make sure our clients are informed and understand both their rights and the consequences that flow from missteps taken when encountering the police during a DUI investigation. Contact us today at (202) 489-0720 to schedule a free consultation.
What are DUI Blood Tests?
DUI blood tests are chemical tests commonly used in Virginia by the police to determine or verify whether and to what extent an individual unlawfully has alcohol or drugs in their system. It is used most often in two circumstances:
- The alleged drunk driver has refused to perform a breath test; and/or
- The police believe the driver might be under the influence of drugs, which can include prescription medication or any type of illicit drug.
Blood tests produce more accurate results than the other two chemical tests associated with intoxicated driving cases: breath tests and urine tests. A blood test is also much more intrusive. With breath tests, you simply blow into the testing machine. With urine tests, you urinate into a cup. With blood tests, however, a qualified medical professional will draw blood to collect a test sample. Blood tests can detect substances that breath tests cannot.
Can I Refuse a Blood Test in Virginia?
The simple answer is yes. Keep in mind, however, that a refusal in Virginia can have significant consequences. The same is true even if you are never convicted of an intoxicated driving offense in Northern Virginia because refusal is a separate charge in Virginia. The statute that governs this is 18.2-268.2, and you can find that statute HERE.
The Virginia Courts even have forms for this. You can find one of them HERE.
The problem is this: implied consent laws.
When you obtain a driver's license and drive anywhere in the United States, you have implicitly implied to agree to obey the laws of each state, and each state has its own version of implied consent laws. Basically, by agreeing to obey the rules of the road, you also implicitly agree to chemical tests.
If you do refuse to give a blood sample (or refuse a breath sample), the police can quickly obtain a warrant to collect a sample. In the end, if you refuse, you will likely still have to give a blood sample.
When Are DUI Blood Tests Allowed in Virginia?
Police must have probable cause that you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs before they can administer a blood test. Probable cause can be obtained many ways, like slurred speech, a failed sobriety test, or the smell of alcohol or drugs, among other potential indicators.
If probable cause exists, a blood test can only be administered in most states if one of the following occurs:
- The driver signs a waiver.
- The driver consents.
- The police officer obtains a search warrant authorizing the blood test.
- Exigent circumstances exist and qualify as an exception to the search warrant requirement.
DUI Blood Tests in Virginia Can Be Unreliable
Blood tests provide better results than breath tests. Not only can a blood test determine a more accurate blood alcohol content (BAC) level, but it can also identify specific drugs and the amount of those drugs in your system.
That said, even if they are more accurate, they can still be unreliable when certain issues are present.
Common situations that could lead to the suppression of a blood test result in DUI cases in Virginia include:
- Too long of a waiting period between arrest and administration of the blood test
- Contamination of the blood sample
- Improper preservation or storage
- Improper transportation of the sample
- A gap in the sample's chain of custody
- Drawing of the blood sample by an unqualified person
In addition, the technology and machines used to analyze the blood samples could have problems that make the results unreliable. These machines require regular maintenance but are often neglected.
A private DUI defense attorney who has the right experience, knowledge, and skill in these types of cases can help you identify whether an unreliable blood test exists in your case. A motion to suppress or exclude the results can be timely filed and strategically used in your defense.
How DUI Defense Lawyers Can Challenge Blood Tests
DUI blood tests can be excluded from evidence under certain circumstances. A defense lawyer should identify when those circumstances are present and take immediate action to exclude the evidence.
As noted above, a court can exclude blood test results when conditions make the results unreliable (e.g., mishandling of the sample). The court may also suppress blood test results when a defense lawyer can prove there was:
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Police misconduct
- Issuance or enforcement of an invalid warrant
- Violation of your constitutional rights
When blood tests are admitted into evidence, your defense attorney still has options. For example, they can
- Retain an independent lab to perform additional blood testing
- Hire an expert to testify about any circumstances that could have produced inaccurate results
Finding the right DUI defense lawyer in Northern Virginia will be key to a successful outcome in your DUI case.
Contact Us for your Northern Virginia DUI Today
At S.L. England, PLLC, our DUI defense attorney understands the complex nature of Virginia intoxicated driving laws, the technical and scientific aspects of blood tests, and how to strategically fight the allegations to get the best outcome in your unique case.
We want you to know that just because you are charged with DUI offenses, it does not mean you will be found guilty. You can successfully defend against these types of charges, but you need an DUI defense lawyer who can help you do it. Call our office today at (202) 489-0720 or fill out an online form to schedule a free consultation.