DUI blood test results can take up to several months to process. At a minimum, it will typically be at least four to six weeks before you receive your blood test results. This is greatly dependent on where you live. For example, DUI blood test results from highly populated areas like Los Angeles and New York City would likely take longer than those from smaller cities and towns.
In the interim, you can and should seek legal counsel for your case. You will need an experienced DUI attorney to provide an aggressive defense.
Your defense attorney will be able to obtain your blood test results as soon as they are ready and possibly sooner than you could alone. In any case, the court will be required to give these results to you.
You have a legal right to your own defense whether you retain an attorney or not, but trying to fight DUI cases without a defense attorney is unwise. You have too much at stake; your job, future career plans, finances, driver’s license, and even freedom may be at risk.
The prosecutor preparing the case against you will likely wait for the blood test results before proceeding further. Your attorney can file a “split sample” motion during this interim.
This means that the court will order the blood drawing facility to make a portion of your DUI blood samples available to an independent testing lab of your choice. This is to your advantage in many ways, especially because an independent lab is likely to return your blood test results much faster.
This means that you and your defense attorney will know your results before the prosecution, giving your attorney the advantage of being the first to plan the strategy for your case.
What Happens When You’re Stopped for Suspected Drunk Driving?
Even a first-offense DUI arrest is a serious charge. Subsequent ones can carry stiff fines and considerable jail time. You could also lose your job and find it difficult to find another if it involves driving.
If you’re stopped by law enforcement for suspected DUI, you will be offered a choice between a blood test or a breathalyzer test to evaluate your blood alcohol content (BAC). You will also be instructed to comply with several field sobriety tests.
Attitude Is Everything
Don’t argue, don’t contradict, and don’t be obtuse or belligerent. If a police officer believes you are over the legal limit, they will likely arrest you on DUI charges. Although this may seem frightening, it is in your best interest to comply with the officer’s orders.
Be polite. Cooperate but answer only questions you’re asked and nothing more. Never elaborate or offer information not requested. If the officer wants to know more, let them ask additional questions.
Know Your Rights
You don’t legally have to talk to law enforcement. Only a judge can compel you to speak. However, stonewalling during a traffic DUI stop will often anger law enforcement.
Avoid being rude or impatient, and be careful about what you say. Anything you say could also be used against you later in court.
Maintain Politeness and Courtesy
Watch your demeanor and what you say. It’s even possible the officer will let you go if the DUI evidence is weak or inconclusive. If it comes down to a judgment call, the officer may just send you on your way with a warning if you have been pleasant and cooperative.
After questioning, the officer may conclude that your somewhat erratic driving was due to fatigue, not alcohol. Driving while tired and drowsy isn’t legal, either, but it’s much more likely to lead to a warning, not an arrest.
Of course, make sure nothing illegal or questionable is ever left out in plain sight. This includes marijuana products of any type, not just joints or loose flowers.
Even if you live in certain states where recreational marijuana is legal, driving while under the influence of anything that makes you an unsafe driver is never legal. This includes prescription drugs, controlled substances or not, legally furnished to you under your doctor’s prescription.
Getting Pulled Over for DUI
Police officers follow a strict procedure for all suspected drunk driving stops. The evidence collected now may be presented in court later and can be tossed out if the exact protocol was not followed. You can expect questions about how much you’ve been drinking and field sobriety tests to check for impairments caused by alcohol that make you a hazardous driver.
You will be offered a choice between a breathalyzer test or a blood test. The officer cannot force you to do either on the spot, but know that law enforcement can quickly get a warrant to force you to submit to a DWI blood test. This means that you can be taken into a lab and physically restrained to obtain DUI blood samples.
Breath or Blood Test for DUI?
You can refuse breath tests at the time of a traffic DUI stop. This device measures the amount of alcohol in your breath as you exhale, which is directly related to the amount of alcohol in your blood at the time. However, serious consequences and penalties against your driver’s license will be much harsher if you refuse the breathalyzer test.
Breath tests do have limitations. You can falsely fail one if there is alcohol from another source in your mouth at the time, such as that from mouthwash or even sacrificial wine from a church service.
Not everyone can take a breathalyzer test, either. For example, those with emphysema or asthma may not be physically able to blow hard enough into the machine for a valid reading.
A field breathalyzer test can work against you, depending on the timing of your last drink. BAC tends to rise sharply just before it falls, and if you blow during this critical time, you could easily fail the breathalyzer test.
DUI Blood Tests Are More Accurate for Determining Blood Alcohol Concentration Levels
Breathalyzer tests are easier for your DUI attorney to challenge later, but a blood test result has the advantage of time because it cannot be done in the field. The officer must transport you to an approved medical facility to draw blood samples, allowing time for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to drop below the legally drunk limit.
But, DUI blood tests or BAC tests are generally more reliable than breath tests and may be more difficult to dispute.
If you choose a blood test, your processing and transportation time can only work in your favor and never against you. Keep in mind that alcohol is a relatively short-acting substance and is only detectable in the blood for about 12 hours. A BAC high enough to convict you would only be present for a portion of that short time.
Also, while a breath test will only reveal information about alcohol use and not usage of illegal drugs, blood results will disclose both. If an illicit substance is found, you could face additional charges.
This includes controlled substances available by prescription, such as oxycodone or mixed amphetamine salts. These drugs are legal to take only if prescribed to you personally by a licensed physician, and you must be able to prove that.
If You Are Arrested: Implied Consent Laws
Once you’re placed under arrest, in many states, you fall under the implied consent law. The law basically says that you must submit to a test of your urine, blood, or breath upon any arrest for alleged driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you don’t comply, you will face administrative actions from the Department of Motor Vehicles or other regulating entities. Whether you realize it or not, you’re under the implied consent law every time you drive on public roads in most states.
Although police cannot force you to take a breath test, if you refuse, this can result in harsher penalties against your license later unless you opt for the blood test instead.
Disputing BAC Test Results
A blood draw for BAC tests must be done in an approved facility. A portion of the driver’s blood sample will be set aside for later chemical testing by an independent lab should you or your attorney request it. These labs can help your case by casting doubt on the state’s lab evidence against you.
How Independent Laboratory Test Results Can Help Your Case
Split DUI blood samples may help your case in several ways:
- The independent testing lab may find a lower blood alcohol level than .08 percent in your blood test results.
- If the DUI blood testing sample shows evidence of being degraded, improperly stored, or handled, the DUI case may not have sufficient evidence.
- If the independent lab can produce evidence that the blood sample was compromised in some way, it will invalidate the test results.
For example, improperly stored blood can ferment.
Fermentation occurs when microorganisms called yeasts feed on sugar and produce alcohol as a by-product. These microorganisms are part of the environment and can contaminate the blood sample if lab personnel are careless.
If the independent lab can prove that your split blood test sample shows signs of fermentation, DUI lawyers may be able to get the whole test excluded from the evidence against you. Alcohol present in blood tests from fermentation due to contamination will invalidate the police lab’s results.
Any of these factors give your attorney or law firm the information they need to fight your case and get you the best possible outcome.
Consult With an Attorney and Learn Your Options
It may be possible to get your charges reduced or even dismissed. A plea bargain is another option a law firm may use to help you avoid a misdemeanor DUI.
In a plea bargain, the prosecution agrees to a much lighter penalty. This often involves probation and may include a provision for dropping your charges after you successfully complete it.
However, the arrest itself remains and could present a problem when applying for certain jobs, even though you were not convicted. It’s yet another reason to avoid mixing alcohol with driving altogether.