In Cold Blood – Should Missouri Chill DUI Evidence?
A memo to members of the Missouri Highway Patrol has caused a blood feud of sorts. The issue is the proper way of handling DUI blood samples. The memo, which outlines those procedures, states that refrigeration of samples taken from suspected drunk drivers is not required.
Some background: when police suspect a driver of being intoxicated, the usual procedure is to ask the driver to step out of his or her vehicle and perform a series of tests, known collectively as the FST (field sobriety tests). These are the familiar roadside tests that we’ve all seen, including walking a straight line and turning 180 degrees, balancing on one leg, and the like.
If the officer suspects impairment after the FST, he or she might ask the suspect to take a breathalyzer test. That test, however, will not produce a result that’s admissible in court.
A blood sample provides a court with the only uncontestable measurement of intoxication. The results of a blood test prove conclusively whether or not there was alcohol in the driver’s system.
Here is where refrigeration is an issue. Often DUI lawyers will challenge the validity of a blood sample if it has not been refrigerated, charging that fermentation might have occurred. Fermentation is a process, one which organic material undergoes, which produces alcohol. After a few days, some contend that a sample might have more alcohol than was really present at the time of arrest. This challenge is known as the Fermentation Defense.
According to a Fox News report, a Missouri DUI attorney has stated that the procedures will lead to false convictions. That same report notes that Missouri prosecutors deny the validity of the Fermentation Defense, and are thus not worried about the blood sample procedures now in place.
Anyone concerned about this issue can avoid the whole situation by not drinking and driving, not getting arrested for DUI, and thus not having one’s blood drawn. Drive sober and all your blood will stay where it belongs, and at the proper temperature to boot.