Can Arizona Police Use Blood Drawn for Medical Purposes to Check for Drugs or Alcohol?

The admissibility of blood-test evidence is currently a hot topic in DUI law, with the United States Supreme Court deciding three cases on the subject in the past few years. Often, the issue that comes up in these cases is whether the police officers were able to legally obtain a blood sample based on the surrounding circumstances. Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion illustrating police officers’ ability to obtain a blood sample that a nurse took from the defendant for medical purposes.

According to the court’s opinion, a state trooper stopped the defendant for following too closely and failing to stay within his lane. While the trooper was interacting with the defendant, he noticed a smell of alcohol on the defendant’s breath, and that the defendant’s eyes were bloodshot. When asked, the defendant admitted to having two drinks, and also that his license was in suspension.

The trooper asked the defendant to get out of the car and performed a series of field sobriety tests. Ultimately, the trooper concluded that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol and arrested him for DUI. Another trooper arrived on the scene, and the two discussed bringing the defendant into the station for a breath test. During this conversation, the defendant called for medical assistance because he was having a heart attack and a seizure.

The troopers placed the defendant in one of their cars and transported him to the hospital. At the hospital, nurses took the defendant’s blood for medical purposes. The troopers then obtained a sample of the defendant’s blood so that they could test it for alcohol. As it turns out, the defendant’s blood indicated that his blood-alcohol content (BAC) was .17, more than twice the legal limit.

The state charged the defendant with four counts related to his arrest:

  1. Aggravated driving with a BAC of 0.08 or more with a suspended license;
  2. Aggravated driving while impaired to the slightest degree with a suspended license;
  3. Driving while impaired to the slightest degree; and
  4. Driving while under the extreme influence of intoxicating liquor with a BAC of 0.15 or more but less than 0.20.

A jury convicted the defendant, and the court sentenced him accordingly. The defendant appealed his convictions, arguing that Double Jeopardy precluded several of the convictions. Ultimately, the court agreed that the defendant could not be guilty of count three if he were found guilty on count two. The court reasoned that these two counts shared all the same elements, with count two requiring the additional fact that the defendant’s license was suspended. Thus, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction on count three, but otherwise affirmed the verdict.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI?

If the state recently charged you with an Arizona DUI offense, you need an effective advocate to stand up for your rights and fight on your behalf. At the Tempe DUI defense practice of James E. Novak, we represent clients who face all types of Arizona DUI crimes, including first-time DUIs and extreme DUIs. To learn more about how we can help you defend against the allegations against you, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

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