Can fire department paramedics draw blood for DUI investigations? No, and below we explain why.
There are two main chemical tests to determine the amount of alcohol in a driver for evidence in drunk driving cases. They are a breath alcohol test or a blood alcohol chemical analysis. The arresting police officer usually makes that decision unless a driver refuses a breath test, in which case they will get a blood draw.
They would rather choose to conduct the breath test, since it is easier and quicker for the officer to administer. It is done at the police station on a breath alcohol instrument called a Datamaster DMT.
When the driver refuses the breath test, the officer will attempt to get a warrant to draw the driver’s blood.
Unreliable Blood Draw
Most people think a blood test for alcohol is more accurate than a breath test. Generally, a blood test is a better test to determine the amount of alcohol in a person only if the blood is drawn properly, preserved properly, delivered to the lab promptly, and analyzed strictly pursuant to applicable protocols and procedures.
As Michigan’s only Forensic-Scientist as certified by the American Chemical Society (ACS), I have education and experience in attacking each one of these issues. An issue that often comes up is the unreliable paramedic blood draw.
The Law Clearly States Who May or May Not Draw Blood
Michigan law states clearly that only a doctor, or an experienced person designated by that doctor, may draw blood for evidence of a DUI. The law also clearly states that the person must be regularly supervised and trained by that doctor to ensure the individual knows what they are doing and doing it correctly.
Police officers hate to go the local hospital for the blood draw, because it requires them to leave the comfort of their police headquarters. Depending on how busy it is, there may be a wait. It is the last thing they want to do. To save the officer time, many cities have changed their policy and call in the local fire department paramedics to the police station and perform the blood draw there.
The goal for them is to save time, but what does that mean about the reliability of obtaining a blood sample?
Paramedics Are Not Trained in Blood Draws
City fire department paramedics are trained in life saving and emergency medical services. Blood draws are not their typical assignment. Further, they do not work directly for or under the supervision of a doctor. Their supervisor is the fire department chief, who is not a licensed physician.
There is no one there to ensure they receive the training, continued education and supervision to ensure they are performing the blood draw properly, as the statute requires. Further, they are performing these blood draws at the police station, which is far from the sanitary conditions of a hospital. Even the back of an ambulance cannot compare.
Paramedic Blood Draws Happening Regularly In Surrounding Cities
This is a local practice now in the cities of Birmingham, City of Rochester, and Troy. There are several more. These cities are sacrificing the integrity and reliability of a very important blood draw which will be used as evidence in a DUI prosecution, for the sake of expediency and convenience. Justice should never surrender to convenience.
Local city attorneys and prosecutors have been getting away with this stunt by saying there is another doctor that regularly supervises the paramedics but that claim has not been proven to be true. Fire department paramedics are not qualified by law or properly supervised by a physician to perform evidentiary blood draws.
Attorney Morris has enjoyed a very successful and distinguished career as a trial lawyer providing high quality legal representation in the area of state and federal criminal defense for 20 years. He is known for his trial preparation by fellow attorneys, judges and clients alike. As a trial attorney, he is dedicated to attaining justice in every case, and is prepared to take on complex legal issues with success. Barton and his law firm pride themselves on obtaining results for their clients that other attorneys cannot.
Not only does Barton Morris have extensive experience, he also engages in continuing legal education to provide the highest quality legal services. Barton has received specialized scientific training through the American Chemical Society. He attended the prestigious Trial Lawyers College and serves on its Alumni Association Board of Directors. Barton Morris is also a board member of several distinguished legal associations including the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys, and the DUI Defense Lawyer’s Association Justice Foundation. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and has also graduated from their National Criminal Defense Trial College in Macon, Georgia.
Barton Morris was chosen as a Top Lawyer of Metro Detroit for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020 for DUI/DWI and criminal defense by DBusiness Magazine and Hour Magazine. Barton Morris was also chosen as a Super Lawyer in Criminal Defense for 2014-2020 and Barton Morris is the only Lawyer in Michigan designated by the American Chemical Society as a “Forensic Lawyer-Scientist”