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Suspect Refuses Treatment at Jail, Gets a DUI Blood Test

In Florida, when a person gets arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, or DUI, he/she is going to get taken to jail. In the Jacksonville area, he/she will stay in jail until he/she goes in front of a judge either the next morning or next afternoon depending on how late the arrest was. When a person in the Jacksonville, Florida area gets arrested for DUI (other than for a previously signed arrest warrant), the person cannot bond out immediately and has to wait to see a judge to get a bond the next day.

Also in the Jacksonville, Florida area, and likely in most places, the jail will not accept a person who has an immediate injury or urgent medical problem. Having an urgent or serious medical problem is not a ticket out of jail; it just means that the police will take the person to a hospital to get medically cleared before the person can go back into the jail. In DUI cases, this often arises after an accident associated with the DUI. If it is questionable whether the person has a serious enough injury or medical problem so that a hospital trip is necessary before jail, the jail may have a nurse or other medical personnel evaluate the suspect to see if he/she needs to go to the hospital or can go to the jail.

In DUI cases, the police officer does not normally request a blood sample for a blood alcohol test. In most cases, a breath test, or breathalyzer test, is requested of the driver to test his/her blood alcohol level. An exception occurs where a person involved in an accident, is suspected of DUI and the accident involve serious injury or death such that a hospital visit is required.

In a recent DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida, the DUI suspect was involved in an accident where the police and an ambulance responded. The police suspected the driver of drunk driving. The EMT’s checked the suspect and cleared him medically. In other words, there was no serious injury meaning there was no need for a hospital visit meaning the driver did not have to provide a blood sample for a blood alcohol test. The police officer arrested the driver and took him to jail. At the jail, because of the accident, the jail nurse wanted to check the suspect to make sure he was not injured. The suspect refused any examination by the jail nurse. Because the jail would not accept the suspect without being medically cleared by a nurse, the police took him to a hospital. At the hospital, a nurse took a blood sample from the suspect and tested it. The blood alcohol test showed that the defendant’s blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Even though the blood was not taken pursuant to the implied consent law, the State subpoenaed the blood test results and were able to use them at trial to convict the defendant of DUI. The criminal defense lawyer argued that the blood draw was “legal blood” and the implied consent law must be followed. Because it was not and the police had no legal basis to request the blood draw or a search warrant, the blood alcohol test results should be thrown out. However, the court disagreed. The medical personnel at the hospital took the blood at their own discretion and without direction by the police. As a result, the blood draw did not involve the implied consent law or constitutional protections. The blood was legally taken from the defendant, and the State could obtain the results with a valid subpoena and use them at the DUI trial.