The type of individuals authorized to draw blood in Utah for DUI purposes is most likely set to change. Under the previous version, only a physician, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse and qualified medical technician were allowed to draw blood.
The new version of the statute adds paramedics to that group. This amendment was considered after a DUI case was dismissed after the defense attorney questioned whether the paramedic was authorized to draw blood for a DUI prosecution.
The bill was approved by a Utah legislature committee without objection, and passage into law appears to be assured. The change is not controversial but does raise some potential issues.
When individuals in Utah are granted a drivers’ license, they sign a form that gives the state of Utah implied consent to obtain a sample of their blood if they are ever suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
The blood is then tested to determine their blood alcohol content (BAC). If the test shows their BAC is above the legal limit, the test can be used to convict them in a court of law.
Chain of Custody Potentially Compromised
In any legal case, however, any evidence-including blood tests-must be preserved in original, unaltered form before being used or relied upon to convict a person. Thus, any evidence should have a clear “chain of custody,” where it can be shown there was no opportunity for evidence to be compromised.
Unfortunately, some argue, the chain of custody may be compromised in Utah DUI cases if paramedics are allowed to draw blood. This is not because paramedics are not competent enough to draw blood, but because they may not have a proper procedure in place or facilities to store the blood, like hospitals, to ensure that the blood is not mishandled or compromised. (It’s more likely that blood samples taken at a hospital by a doctor or nurse will be handled properly due to the volume that’s handled every day.)
The bill, although yet to be signed into law, will most likely pass. When it does, individuals in Utah facing DUI charges after a paramedic has drawn their blood should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can make sure the chain of custody has not been compromised.
So much is at stake for those convicted of drunk driving charges. Direct consequences like loss of license and court fines are foreseeable penalties offenders can face. However, indirect consequences like loss of employment or the higher auto insurance rates are just as likely.