Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DUI Law - Illinois Suppresses Blood Test Without Preservatives

In People v. Hall, --- N.E.2d ----, 2011 IL App (2d) 100,262, 2011 WL 6175606 (Ill.App. 2 Dist.), the defendant (who happens to be a county judge) was arrested for DUI by a police officer named Goldsmith (who is now deceased). During the course of the arrest, the arresting officer, Officer Goldsmith of the Vernon Hills police department, sprayed defendant with pepper spray and pulled defendant from his vehicle. A rescue squad was called to the scene, and emergency medical technicians tended to defendant for about 25 minutes. Defendant was then taken to Condell Medical Center for treatment of his left eye, which had taken the brunt of the pepper spray. While at the hospital, defendant was hooked up to an electrocardiogram, which detected a rapid heart rate. Before defendant was moved from the emergency room and admitted to the hospital, Goldsmith told him to come to the police station to pick up his citations after he was released. Goldsmith then left, and defendant was moved to a hospital room, where, eventually, several vials of his blood were drawn to be tested for heart-related issues. The following afternoon, defendant was released from the hospital and he picked up his citations at the police station.

The Illinois Attorney General took over the prosecution of this case, as the Lake County State's Attorney determined that his office had a conflict of interest.FN1 An assistant Attorney General, with the help of an assistant State's Attorney, learned that several vials of defendant's blood still remained at Condell. On May 14, 2008, the trial court ordered Condell to release the blood samples to the Vernon Hills police department for transportation to the Illinois State Police (ISP) crime lab for testing. FN2 An ISP technician tested the blood for alcohol concentration on May 15 and reported a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.107. This information was tendered to defendant on June 11, but the test results remained sealed under court order.

Jennifer Poltorak, a toxicologist at the ISP crime lab with bachelor's degrees in chemistry and forensic science, testified that she received three tubes of defendant's blood for testing, including one tube with a purple stopper. She tested two samples from the purple-topped tube, using a head space gas chromatograph; the average result revealed “an ethanol level of 0.107 grams per deciliter.” Poltorak testified that the ethanol reading would not have been affected by the presence of methanol in the blood sample. She also testified that it was not unusual to perform a BAC test on a blood sample that was 18 or 19 days old. Defendant's only witness, James O'Donnell, was a pharmacist and professor with bachelor's and doctorate degrees in pharmacy and a master's degree in nutrition. Testifying as an expert in pharmacology, O'Donnell opined that the tubes of defendant's blood were tainted because of a lack of determination of proper storage and the “significant probability” that microbial growth in blood untreated with preservative would lead to the synthesis of alcohol in the samples and would cause a “false positive” reading. Preservatives do not completely kill such bacteria but limit their growth.

Illinois administrative regulations state:

"Officers shall use DUI kits provided by the Department, if possible. If kits are not available, officers may submit two standard grey top vacuum tubes. (Pursuant to generally accepted industry standards, grey top vacuum tubes contain an anticoagulant and preservative.)"

On appeal, the court found that the failure to comply with this regulation (in that a purple-topper indicates a lack of preservative in violation of the rgulation) rendered the result inadmissible.

Additionally, the state argued that they should only have to 'substantially comply, rather than 'strictly comply' with the regulations.

In rejecting that position, the appeals court stated:

"Here, while there was evidence that the purple-topped tube from which the blood was taken for the BAC test contained an anticoagulant, there is no evidence that the tube contained the required preservative. There was 50% compliance with the requirement that the tube contain both an anticoagulant and preservative; however, there was zero compliance with the requirement that the tube contain a preservative. This is a failure to comply, not “substantial” compliance."

The appeals court also explained when a regulation requires substantial compliance or strict compliance. Quoting from an earlier decision the court explained how, in a case involving the failure to perform a 20 minute observation period (where the defendant admitted that he did not burp regurgitate or place anything in his mouth), substantial compliance might apply, but why here it must be strict compliance :

“The standards exist, not for their own sakes, but in service of the truth-seeking function, which they promote by ensuring that blood, breath, and urine tests are conducted in a manner that produces reliable results. If the standards are to serve this purpose, the rule of substantial compliance must be one that neither blithely ignores the standards nor enforces them in a purely rote manner. We are therefore reluctant to relax the standards when doing so would require inquiry into the scientific basis for a particular standard. However, when it is clear that a particular deviation from the mandated procedures does not pertain to a matter of science, a court is perfectly competent to determine whether, in a given case, the deviation compromised the integrity of the testing process.” People v. Ebert, 401 Ill.App.3d 958 (2010)

Continuing, the appeals court wrote:

"[T]he issue of whether the failure to include preservative in the tube of blood used for defendant's BAC test requires an inquiry into the scientific basis for the requirement. The blood was not tested for almost three weeks after it was drawn; neither the trial court nor this court is “perfectly competent,” in the words of Ebert, to determine whether the failure to include the preservative compromised the integrity of the testing process. See Ebert, 401 Ill.App.3d at 965. The legislature has assigned to the Department of State Police the responsibility to promulgate standards for chemical analyses of blood, urine, and breath and to “prescribe regulations as necessary to implement” section 11–501.2. 625 ILCS 5/11–501.2(a)(1) (West 2006). We will not second-guess the reasoning behind these regulations by considering conflicting testimony regarding scientific matters that are within the purview of the Department of State Police. We cannot conclude that failure to strictly comply with subsection (d) is de minimis. Under the facts of this case, Ebert does not support the State's argument that substantial compliance with the regulation would be sufficient. Instead, the Ebert analysis reinforces our conclusion that the trial court did not err in excluding the BAC evidence because the State did not comply with subsection (d)."

The appeals court then affirmed the suppression of the blood test in this matter.
Looking for a Top DUI DWI Attorney? Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!

No comments:

Blog Archive