Toxicology Issues in DUI Cases
Like many states, the Commonwealth of Virginia relies on breathalyzer and blood tests to determine whether a person has committed a DUI offense. Because many assume these tests are scientifically accurate, juries often consider their results compelling evidence to support a conviction.
Yet the results of breath and blood tests are not always accurate or reliable. Several complicating factors can lead to a result that ultimately has devastating consequences for an innocent driver.
BAC Testing in Virginia
Law enforcement agents use breathalyzer and blood tests to measure the amount of alcohol in your body. Virginia law stipulates that a driver with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher can face DUI charges.
If a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving, they may request that you take a roadside breath test. However, these preliminary tests are not admissible in court because they are regularly inaccurate. Nevertheless, a positive roadside breath test can give an officer probable cause to arrest you for a DUI offense. You have the right to refuse a preliminary breath test, and you will face no consequences for exercising that right.
However, the officer might still have other probable cause to arrest you, such as a field sobriety test. If so, the police can charge you with a DUI. They will require you to take an official breathalyzer and/or blood test at the jail or magistrate’s office. These post-arrest tests are mandatory. If you refuse, you face an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for one year or for three years if you refuse a second time.
The results of these official BAC tests are admissible in court and often lead to convictions.
Potential Problems with Toxicology Tests
The science of determining BAC is complicated. Obtaining accurate results is not straightforward because each individual responds differently to the tests. Furthermore, the results can change if the person administering the test fails to administer it correctly.
Reasons for toxicology testing errors include:
- Improper calibration of testing equipment
- Outdated test kits
- Pre-existing physical conditions or medications
- Contamination of test samples
- Improper storage of test samples
- Test administration by untrained individuals
- Lab errors
- Failure to follow accredited forensic lab practices
- Failure to follow lab validation methodology and operating guidelines
- Gaps in the evidence chain
- “Dry labbing,” in which the test produces results but a toxicologist does not complete an analysis
Diseases and Medications
Certain diseases or medications can cause incorrect BAC test results. For example, drugs that speed up or slow down the body’s metabolism, such as oral contraceptives, can affect blood alcohol content readouts. Similarly, diseases such as hepatitis, heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes can also affect BAC levels.
How Can a Roanoke DUI Lawyer Help?
An experienced Virginia DUI lawyer will conduct an investigation to determine whether any of these faults occurred during your testing. The court might suppress the evidence if your toxicology results contained errors, potentially leading to the dismissal of your charges.
Contact Strickland, Diviney & Segura Today
Issues with toxicology tests have put many innocent people in legal jeopardy. Yet while the evidence may seem damning, an experienced DUI defense attorney can help you fight the charges against you. The esteemed legal team at Strickland, Diviney & Segura has been fighting for decades to protect the rights and liberties of Virginians. We are ready to put our experience, skill, and knowledge to work for you too.
Don’t let problematic test results ruin your life. Call us today at (540) 982-7787 or contact us online for a consultation to learn more about how we can help you.