If you are arrested on a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge in New Hampshire — sometimes called driving under the influence (DUI) — then you can expect that law enforcement officers will offer you to submit to a chemical test or tests and potentially additional physical tests.
Although breathalyzer tests are available, many law enforcement officers in New Hampshire prefer to use a blood test to record a suspect’s blood alcohol content (“BAC”) level. New Hampshire statute RSA 265-A:4 specifically permits officers to request a blood test from a DWI/DUI suspect, which can then be agreed to or refused. But that doesn’t mean the officer will just draw blood on the side of the road. Instead, you will likely be taken to a nearby hospital or medical clinic so an authorized person can complete the blood draw. Some law enforcement agencies may even have an authorized person come directly to the police department to conduct the blood draw. Regardless of the location, RSA 265-A:5, requires that the person conducting the blood draw must be a duly licensed physician, registered nurse, certified physician's assistant, phlebotomist, or qualified medical technician or medical technologist.
Once the blood draw is completed, the results will be sent to New Hampshire State Forensic Laboratory for examination. At such a testing facility, the strictest protocols must be followed to ensure the blood sample is received, processed, tested, and stored properly. Later, the results can be used to exonerate you or, if the results show a BAC over the legal limit, used against you in an administrative process at the DMV and in court for any criminal prosecution.
Why Do Police Prefer DWI Blood Tests?
If much-less-intrusive breathalyzer tests are widely available for use after arresting a DWI/DUI suspect, then why do law enforcement officers and agencies tend to prefer taking blood tests when it’s an option? It has to do with accuracy. Breath tests are accurate but are more prone to test contamination. Recent alcohol consumption and residual mouth alcohol are leading causes of contamination which can impact the accuracy and reliability of breath test results.
On the other hand, blood tests are highly accurate when administered and taken correctly. BAC levels reported from the New Hampshire State Laboratory are accurate to within .005 grams per 100 milliliters. Additionally, the single test can show law enforcement agencies whether any other potentially impairing substances are in a subject’s blood sample. The state laboratory tests blood samples for legal and illegal drugs, including:
Initial screening will determine whether any of the tested drugs are present. The laboratory then can run a confirmatory test to determine the quantity or amount of any drug in a blood sample.
Problems with DWI Blood Tests
Don’t assume that once a DWI blood test is taken that it will be 100% accurate, though. As an experienced DWI defense attorney can tell you, there are many steps in the DWI/DUI blood test process where things can go wrong and the test results become faulty.
Labs that run DWI blood test samples have to adhere to strict regulations and protocols, which are in place due to the delicate nature of blood samples. A sample left out too long or incorrectly processed could be damaged and produce a false BAC level reading. A sample incorrectly packaged could be rejected by the laboratory before resubmission for testing. If a defense lawyer can discover that even one step was missed or handled incorrectly, then there could be grounds to challenge the accuracy of the test result and the admissibility of the evidence.
Blood samples can also be independently tested after the New Hampshire State Laboratory issues its final report. To do so, you must act fast because the laboratory will destroy the blood sample within 30 days of issuing the report. It is important to have an experienced attorney hired and ready to assist you as soon as the BAC blood test is issued to assist in deciding whether an independent test is appropriate, and if so, facilitating the transfer of the blood sample to a private, accredited laboratory.
Can You Refuse a DWI Blood Test in New Hampshire?
You have the right to refuse a DWI blood test in New Hampshire, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should use that right. Drivers in New Hampshire agree to an implied consent law once they obtain a driver’s license. The law essentially states that a licensed driver will agree to chemical test or tests (blood, breath, or urine testing) and potentially additional physical tests as requested by law enforcement officials or accept administrative penalties. In other words, if you refuse to comply with any one of the requested tests, then your driver’s license could be immediately revoked or suspended.
Furthermore, administrative penalties like the revocation of your driver’s license for refusing a DWI blood test are not criminal penalties. Even if you are proven in criminal court to have been 100% sober when you were arrested and told to take a DWI blood test, but you refused that test, then you can still face the full extent of any administrative penalties despite not being convicted of a DWI.
How Long Does It Take to Get DUI Blood Test Results?
The NH Forensic Laboratory commonly has a large backlog of evidence to test and blood test results often take weeks, if not months. Ordinarily, results take 6-8 weeks from the time that the law enforcement agency submits the blood sample to the laboratory. However, delays are possible, and results can take as long as 12 weeks. You will keep your license while awaiting the results of the blood test.
But you shouldn’t wait to get your results to take action. If your blood sample yields a BAC result above the legal limit, your license or privilege to drive in NH will be suspended or revoked in only 30 days. You will also only have 30 days to request an administrative hearing from the Department of Safety to contest the administrative license suspension. An attorney can help with this process while working on the defense of your DWI criminal charge. Keep in mind, even if your test results are below the .08 BAC limit, and you avoid any administrative consequence at the Department of Safety, the state can still go forward with a DUI charge against you in court.
Get Legal Counsel After a DWI Blood Test
If you are arrested for a DWI in New Hampshire and took a chemical BAC test of any kind, blood test or otherwise, then it is in your best interests to talk with a DWI defense attorney as soon as possible. Your BAC test results could be effectively challenged by an experienced lawyer who knows where to look for problems with how the blood test was taken, transferred, and processed. Depending on their findings, the evidence could be dismissed, and your case could be all the stronger for it.
Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. is the first name many locals trust for DWI defense representation in New Hampshire. Call us at (888) 801-9916 to request a case review with our DWI/DUI/OUI defense attorneys.