Although the government lawyers would have you believe otherwise, there are many problems associated with your typical police blood test. The truth is that if any of the critical steps in collecting blood, storing blood, or testing blood are not completed with flawless precision the result will be compromised. You have to understand that in science there is no such thing as “trust me”. Blood testing is a very exact and precise science and no deviation from the established protocols is allowed. You don’t just adjust the BAC (blood alcohol content reading) to make up for blood draw, police handling or lab errors. You have to start over except that it is too late to draw another vial after you have been released from custody and time has passed. A compromised blood sample is worthless as forensic evidence and should never be allowed into a courtroom.
Starting from the beginning of the analysis, the manner in which blood is initially collected can directly affect the integrity of the blood specimen and cause contamination problems. The drawing of blood is a sensitive medical procedure, and while there are exceptions, many people typically performing these blood draws have limited background or training as a phlebotomist. Studies have shown that errors associated with collecting blood can lead to a false positive and significantly raise the actual blood alcohol content (BAC) level of a blood sample. The simple mishandling of the vials can caused contamination to interfere with the blood test. If the person drawing the blood doesn’t use the proper cleaning solution or if they do not follow the exact manner of cleaning the blood draw area the result is untrustworthy. No one should be convicted based on guess work or on a “its close enough for government work” attitude.
Some DPS troopers have been known to keep blood samples in the trunks of their patrol cars during the heat of the Texas summers for hours or even days until they could put the blood vials in the U.S. Postal service mail box to be sent to the DPS lab in Austin. Do you think that heating up a vial of blood might cause some fermentation in the vials? Candida Albicans is a know bacteria that is all around us on surfaces and in the air. If it enters a blood vial that bacteria begins to eat the sugar in the blood and it excretes ETOH into the blood in the vial. ETOH is the alcohol that the lab is looking for in your blood sample. There is no scientific way to distinguish between the alcohol that is in the vial from the Candida Albican created ETOH that is formed in the vial while being stored.
And if possible contamination at the collection phase of a blood draw isn’t disturbing enough, the manner in which blood is stored and maintained prior to being testing is fundamental to an accurate analysis. It is well documented that all the conditions necessary for fermentation (the creation of alcohol) are present within a vial of your blood. This includes the presence of yeast, bacteria, and sugar that are all normal substances in your body. A short delay or a slight change in temperature can greatly change the conditions of the blood and lead to fermentation, which will artificially inflate the actual BAC level of the blood tested. For years the Austin Police Department police lab did not keep refrigeration records on the blood refrigerator. APD felt that “just trust us” was good enough for DWI prosecutions. Some labs have been caught allowing lab employees to put their lunch boxes in the lab refrigerators. How would you like your blood vial to get someone’s coca cola spilled on the top of it, right where the needle will plunge prior to drawing out your sample?
Assuming the collection and storage of a blood sample has been completed as scientifically required (demanded), the machines testing the blood, known as Gas Chromatographs, are often improperly maintained. One reason for this is a lack of “error reporting” by the forensic labs. Most forensic labs involved in analyzing blood specimens for alcohol do so without scientifically determining the actual rate of errors involved in the process. Failure to ascertain the uncertainty or range of error associated with the lab’s analysis method is not a scientifically sound or accepted method. However, law enforcement forensic labs are often not concerned with following valid scientific procedures and as a result can report an inflated BAC level. This is the problem with associating or affiliating a forensic lab with a police or law enforcement agency. We should mandate that all blood testing be performed by neutral, unbiased laboratories. Police labs personnel often consider themselves “science cops” and search for ways to convict opposed to reporting the truth in the most scientific manner possible.
The issues mentioned in this article are just the tip of the iceberg so to speak and are only vaguely addressed to help the reader understand that results from the analysis of blood are not always as accurate as portrayed by the government. If you or someone you know has been arrested and subjected to a blood draw you must contact our offices to retain an experience and knowledgeable DWI attorney to ensure you do not become a victim of an artificially inflated BAC level. Our attorneys have attended Gas Chromatography courses taught at the prestigious Axion Training Institute, in Chicago, studying the science involved in alcohol blood draws, drug blood draws and solid drug testing.
Call our office immediately at 210-DWI-DUDE to setup a free consultation. To learn more about what you can do in these situations, check out our “What To Do If…” page.