Police in Florida Cannot Seize Blood from Suspected DUI Driver After a Serious Crash Without Establishing Causation by Statute

In Florida, most DUI cases (driving under the influence of alcohol) are the result of traffic stops and then subjective DUI investigations and then requests for the driver to submit to a breathalyzer test after he/she has been arrested.  The police cannot generally request a blood sample from a person, or force a suspect to give a blood sample, unless the Florida statute authorizes it or there are emergency circumstances. There are DUI cases in Florida where a police officer can get a DUI suspect’s blood to be sent to the crime lab and tested for alcohol content. There is a Florida statute that allows the police to obtain a blood sample from a DUI suspect in certain circumstances.

If a driver has been involved in an accident and there is probable cause to believe the driver was under the influence of alcohol and that driver has caused a serious injury or death, the police can then require the driver to provide a blood sample for testing. There is some ambiguity over what a serious injury is and there is often conflict over whether there is probable cause to believe the driver was under the influence of alcohol.  For instance, just because someone involved in the crash was taken to the hospital does not mean there was a serious injury.  Likewise, just because the police smell alcohol on a driver does not automatically mean there is probable cause to believe the driver is under the influence of alcohol.

But there is also another factor that gets overlooked in some DUI cases. The police must have evidence that the driver whose blood they are seeking caused the crashed that resulted in the serious injury or death. Police often come to these accidents after the fact. Therefore, they cannot necessarily rely on their observations of the crash to determine the cause. They must perform some level investigation to make some credible determination of causation of the crash and the resulting injury or death. Without that, the police cannot order a DUI suspect to give blood. This does not mean a driver cannot be charged with DUI. It just means the police cannot obtain the driver’s blood, and if the police do so without establishing any causation, the criminal defense lawyer can get the evidence of the blood alcohol test thrown out of court.

It is important to note that the police do not need to establish the DUI suspect was the sole cause of the crash.  The police just need to establish that the DUI suspect was partially at fault or some contributing factor.  For instance, if a DUI suspect is stopped at a red light and gets hit from behind, that DUI suspect likely did nothing to cause that crash, and the police could not order a blood sample.  On the other hand, if the DUI suspect gets hit by another car at an intersection by a driver who ran a stop sign, but the police can establish through witness testimony or expert testimony that the DUI suspect did not have his lights on at night or was speeding, the state could argue that both drivers played a role in causing the crash and blood test evidence would be admissible.

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