When someone gets stopped on suspicion of a DUI and law enforcement initiates blood, breath and urine tests, the officer must follow the procedures set forth in Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. The purpose of Title 17 is to ensure that DUI chemical tests are as accurate as possible. A violation of the procedures established in Title 17 can cause inaccurate blood alcohol test results providing for a possible defense to DUI charges.
Title 17 requires that breathalyzers collect air that comes from within the lung called “alveolar air.” The law enforcement officer administering the breathalyzer must observe the driver for at least 15 minutes prior to the test to ensure that the driver does not eat, drink, smoke, vomit, or regurgitate. Lastly, with regard to breath tests, Title 17 requires that breathalyzers be calibrated every ten days or 150 uses, whichever comes sooner. With regard to blood tests, Title 17 requires that the person drawing the blood be an authorized technician. The draw site must be sterilized with a non-alcoholic cleaner. (Gee, I wonder why they wouldn’t clean your arm with rubbing alcohol before drawing blood?) The cleaning agent, I’ve encountered the most is hydrogen peroxide. The vial containing the blood sample must contain a proper amount of non-expired anticoagulant or preservative to ensure that the blood doesn’t clot or ferment. Once the blood is drawn, Title 17 requires that the sample be properly mixed with the anticoagulant and preservative (usually by a “vigorous shaking” from law enforcement) and that the sample is properly stored. Although urine tests are rarely used to determine BAC level, Title 17 sets forth standards for urine tests on those rare occasions. Urine tests are used when neither a blood nor a breath test is available and when a person is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Title 17 requires that a driver must first “void” his or her bladder and then provide a sample no sooner than 20 minutes later. The container holding the sample must be clean, dry, and contain a preservative. The sample must be preserved so that the defendant can have it retested at a later time by an independent laboratory.