Following Proper Procedure
Many DUI cases hinge on the results of blood alcohol content (BAC) tests. Because these tests can have such serious consequences, they are subject to numerous regulations. These regulations ensure the tests produce legally valid and accurate results and do not violate the defendant's rights. Title 17 regulations, part of the health code, set forth regulations for the collection of samples for BAC tests, the preparation and storage of the samples, as well as the analysis of the samples.
Title 17 regulations provide requirements for when, how, and by whom a BAC test can be taken. While the regulations are extensive and cannot be exhaustively covered in this article, here are some examples of what is subject to the regulations:
- The laboratory where the analysis is done must be licensed
- The staff who conduct the analysis must be authorized and meet the qualifications set forth in the regulations (e.g. the test is done or overseen by a forensic alcohol supervisor or analyst who must maintain a current license)
- Blood and urine samples should be of sufficient quantity to allow for a secondary analysis by the defendant
- The skin must not be cleaned with alcohol or alcohol-based disinfectants before the venipuncture
- All materials and equipment used in the collection, preparation, and storage of the samples must be sterile but not sterilized with alcohol
- The blood sample must be prepared with an anticoagulant and a preservative
- Urine samples must be stored with a preservative
- All storage containers must be unexpired
- All equipment used in the collection and analysis of the sample must be in good working order and properly maintained
- The blood or urine sample made available for the defendant's own analysis must be kept for one year
- Breath samples can only be obtained after 15 continuous minutes of supervision
If all the regulations are followed, and they should be in every case, the results of the BAC test should be legally valid. Sounds simple enough, but it is not uncommon for these regulations to be overlooked out of negligence or misinformation. Samples could be taken by someone without a license or without proper supervision, they could be put into expired containers or stored without preservatives, the officer who took the breath sample may not have supervised the offender for 15 continuous minutes, or other laboratory procedures may not have been stringently followed.
The people who take blood, breath, or urine samples and those who store and analyze the samples are human, and, as humans, they make mistakes. When these mistakes are made, however, the results of BAC tests could be compromised, and people could be convicted of a DUI unfairly. This is why it is so important to understand how Title 17 regulations can affect your case so you can ensure your rights have not been violated. While you may not be able to say with certainty what your BAC test result would be had the regulations been followed, proving they weren't followed is enough to call the integrity of the test result into question. In a criminal court, that can significantly weaken the prosecution's case.
Because Title 17 regulations are so important, when they are not followed the results from the BAC test can be thrown out of the case. This means the evidence cannot be used against you in your case, and the prosecutor may struggle with presenting enough evidence to convict you without those test results to use. Not surprisingly, Title 17 regulations are often used successfully as a DUI defense. If successfully used, it could result in an acquittal at trial or the chance to negotiate a plea bargain that is in your favor. Some defendants even have their cases dismissed altogether. Doing so, however, is not simple, and you may need the help of a skilled DUI defense attorney to use this defense successfully. An attorney with a thorough understanding of how Title 17 regulations work can build a strategic defense to your charges if any of the regulations were not followed.
If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare area and have questions about how you can fight DUI charges, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you. California DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens will build a strategic defense to your charges. Attorney Martens has handled thousands of cases over a span of ten years of criminal defense practice and can fight hard for your rights in court. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for experienced criminal defense counsel today. Contact our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.