Understanding Blood Alcohol and Drug Testing

Michigan DUI Lawyer

For the time being, the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division in Lansing is responsible for the evidentiary testing of all blood samples for the presence and amount of alcohol and drugs for all drunk and drugged driving prosecutions. These blood tests are often considered to be very strong evidence for the prosecution and most attorneys believe that their results cannot be effectively challenged. That is not true. There are several avenues of attack on blood testing that only a drunk driving  specialist attorney will be able to successfully utilize.

Pre-Draw Issues

The prosecution must call the nurse or doctor to testify that the manner in which the blood was drawn was proper. The following list are several issues that must be challenged:

  • Were the proper blood collection tubes and color stopper used?
  • Were the blood collection tubes expired and too old?
  • Did they contain the proper chemicals to be mixed with the blood?
  • Was the proper needle size used?
  • Was the needle inserted into the vein correctly?
  • How are they sure there was no hemolysis (break down of red blood cells which can create alcohol fermentation after blood draw)?
  • Was the blood specimen tube free from contaminants during collection to be free from candida albicans (a bacteria┬áthat will create alcohol via fermentation after the blood draw)?
  • Was the correct non-alcoholic swab used?
  • Was the person who drew the blood properly trained, qualified and operating under the supervision of a medical doctor (unlike a fire department paramedic whom by law is not qualified).
  • Was there the proper medical environment used as a location to draw the blood?
  • Was the blood collection tube properly inverted after collection of the blood?
  • Were all persons in the chain of custody of the blood properly trained to handle the blood specimen?
  • Was there a possability of bacterial contamination during the collection?

Post Blood Draw Issues:

The MSP-FD forensic scientist must testify to properly admit their results. Only a specialist with a very good understanding of how they test for alcohol or drugs in blood can effectively cross examine them and find a reasonable doubt including the following issues.

  • Did they follow their department rules to the letter when testing the sample?
  • Did they use proper internal standards (necessary for comparison and quantitative analysis)?
  • Were sufficient blanks run, to ensure the alcohol from one sample is not improperly counted in the next sample (carryover)?
  • Where the reports the testing instrument created (chromatagrams) interpreted properly?

The MSP-FD is underfunded and undermanned. Due to these conditions they believe they can cut corners, modify and eliminate proper procedures. The lab must be challenged on these non conforming practices.

Why Choose Barton Morris

Challenging blood test results must be done with effective pre-trial motions and effective cross examination of the arresting police officer, forensic scientist and phlebotimist at trial.

Barton Morris is trained and experienced with making all of the above arguments effectively. Most criminal defense attorneys are not.

Barton Morris graduated from the Axion Lab’s Hands On Forensic Chromatography Course where he was taught the theory behind blood alcohol testing and learned hands on how to prepare a sample and test blood for alcohol using an actual gas chromatograph with a flame ionization detector exactly as performed at the Forensic Science Department of the Michigan State Police. Barton also learned how to perform regular maintenance upon the instruments including changing the columns and septums. Barton Morris is one of three attorneys in Michigan who have completed the course and the only one in Metro Detroit. The Hands On GC Course allowed Barton to have the unique experience of performing the same blood alcohol testing just as is performed at the MSP-FSD. This specialized training is invaluable when fighting a blood alcohol OWI prosecution. Further, Barton Morris now owns the same Chromatography ┬áThermo Quest software used by the MSP Forensic Science Division to perform an independent analysis of the raw data that is generated in the testing of each blood alcohol and/or drug OWI case in the State of Michigan, right in his own office. Barton Morris has the knowledge, equipment, expertise and practical experience to effectively fight a blood alcohol or drug OWI case that consistently leads to great results for his clients.

Recent Blog: Why the State Police Forensic Lab Should not be Trusted to Test Blood for Alcohol and Drugs