State Can Obtain Blood Test Results From Hospital in DUI Case, But Cannot Use Presumption of Guilt

When a person signs up for a driver’s license in Florida, he/she agrees to consent to a breathalyzer test administered by the police if the police have probable cause to believe that person is driving under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his/her normal faculties are impaired. This is what is referred to as the implied consent law. By accepting the privilege of driving in Florida, the driver impliedly consents to take the breathalyzer test after a legitimate DUI arrest. Of course, people refuse the breathalyzer test for any number of reasons after a DUI arrest, and the police cannot actually force someone to take the breathalyzer test. However, if the DUI arrest was valid and the driver refuses the breath alcohol test, the state can administer greater penalties, such as a longer driver’s license suspension, and the state can argue to the jury at a DUI trial that the driver refused the breathalyzer test because he/she knew he/she was drunk and would blow over the 0.08 legal limit. The defendant and criminal defense lawyer can argue other, perfectly innocent and valid reasons why he/she refused the breathalyzer test, and ultimately the issue would be for a jury to decide. In your average DUI investigation by the police, there may be perfectly valid reasons to refuse a breathalyzer test depending on how the police officer is conducting the DUI investigation and arrest.

In addition to a breathalyzer test, the police can obtain a blood sample for a blood alcohol test in some situations. This would not normally apply in a routine DUI arrest after a regular traffic stop where a breathalyzer test is feasible, but a blood test may be applicable after a serious accident that involves an injury or death. In the case of a serious accident, where the suspected driver goes to the hospital for serious injuries, the police may request a blood sample to test for blood alcohol content because the breathalyzer test at the police station is not practical. Additionally, the medical staff may take the suspected driver’s blood and test it for alcohol content for medical reasons. In the former case, if the driver refuses the blood draw, the state can later argue at trial that the driver refused the blood draw because he/she knew that he/she was guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol. If the state gets the blood test results via subpoena after the blood is drawn for medical purposes, the implied consent law does not apply and the state cannot argue any presumption that the driver was impaired by alcohol. However, in either case, the state can subpoena blood test results from the hospital if the medical provider took a blood sample and tested it for alcohol for medical reasons.

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