An anticoagulant is a substance that prevents blood from clotting. For blood draws, a standard anticoagulant used is 20 milligrams of potassium oxalate. The use of an anticoagulant is crucial with blood draws to check a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC), because if an anticoagulant isn’t used, a test of the blood will show a much higher BAC.
There are different types of blood tests, which include serum tests, plasma tests and whole blood tests. If the test is being performed to test a driver’s BAC, then a whole blood test is the only method that will provide an accurate result. Here’s why – plasma is blood without the solid, cellular material. This means that there will the same amount of alcohol in the plasma as there was in the blood, but it will be in a smaller volume of liquid, making the BAC artificially higher. Serum is plasma after the removal of the fibrinogen, which is the clotting material. The person drawing the blood lets the sample clot, which causes the serum to form over the blood. The serum will have a BAC that’s similar to the plasma’s BAC, which again is artificially high.
So, let’s say the person performing the blood draw didn’t use an anticoagulant in the tube. That means that the blood will clot, so instead of a whole blood sample, they will have a serum sample. Testing the BAC of this serum sample will show an artificially high reading.
Situations like these are why it’s so important to hire a skilled defense attorney when you’ve been charged with driving under the influence (DUI). While blood draws tend to be the most accurate way to measure BAC, there are many mistakes that can result in inaccurate readings. Your attorney will have extensive knowledge of possible mistakes that could have occurred during the blood draw and can check for them. If the person who performed the blood draw didn’t use an anticoagulant, your attorney can use that in your defense and argue that the evidence presented against you is inaccurate.
There are plenty of other issues that can result in an inaccurate blood draw. Who performed the blood draw? If that person hasn’t received training in how to draw blood, then they may not have drawn a suitable sample. How did they clean the skin before inserting the needle to draw the blood? While isopropyl alcohol is the most common substance used in medical facilities for sterilization before blood draws, this cannot be used for a blood draw to check your BAC. The alcohol on your skin can get into the needle and artificially raise the BAC of your blood sample. If the person drawing your blood used isopropyl alcohol to clean your skin, that can also be used in your defense.
Blood test kits also have expiration dates. Once a blood test kit reaches its expiration date, the contents are no longer under warranty and no longer meet the standard necessary to be used as evidence in the case against you.
Your defense attorney will also look into the chain of custody regarding your blood sample. If the medical facility or lab handled your blood sample correctly, there will be a complete chain of custody showing that your blood sample was stored in a secured refrigerator with a log book. A blood sample that wasn’t stored properly may not be valid as evidence, because the improper storage could have affected it. Any break in the chain of custody can also be part of your defense, as there’s the possibility that the blood sample was switched out or tampered with during that break. A break may not prevent the prosecution from using your blood sample as evidence, but it can weaken their case.
There are many important factors to a blood draw for a DUI case, with one of the most important being whether the blood tube had the correct chemicals, including an anticoagulant. If this or any other proper procedures weren’t followed for your blood draw, it provides you and your attorney with a strong defense to present to the court.
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