drunk driving

Hemophilia as Reason Not to Do Forcible Blood Draw by Police

This is a new one for me: a lawyer in Massachusetts references hemophilia as a reason not to do forcible blood draws on suspects arrested for drunk driving.

In a May 17, 2010 article, Stephen Neyman writes that there’s a “disturbing trend of allowing police to forcefully draw blood from drivers suspected of being drunk.” He doesn’t want us in the Bay State to go the way of Missouri, which allows police to draw blood without a warrant.

He points out that legislators and law enforcement personnel feel that fear of a needlestick will make people think twice before getting drunk and then driving. He quotes Kane County (Ill.) State’s Attorney John Barsanti: “People will not drink and drive if they think they’ll have a needle stuck in their arm.” Well, they know they may wrap around a telephone pole too but it doesn’t stop them from drinking and driving! Many drunk drivers refuse the breathalyzer, making it harder to convict them. “So it’s understandable that the state would see forcibly taking such evidence as a good solution to increasing their drunk driving conviction rate,” Neyman writes.

But Neyman is not sure forced blood drawing is the answer: doesn’t it interfere with the Fourth Amendment? (And what is that anyway?)

Neyman rightly points out that police officers are not trained or necessarily skilled in blood drawing. Here’s where he uses hemophilia: “There could also be harm to suspects who, for example, have severe hemophilia and cannot stop bleeding once their vein is punctured. A medical professional would know how to handle a situation involving this kind of special medical need, but a police officer with minimal training might not. So the practice of forcible blood draws could put suspects at unreasonable risk of harm.”

I am not sure how many people with hemophilia get arrested for drunk driving each year, but it can’t be many. And I don’t think there’s a problem with needlesticks. Applied pressure usually stops the bleed. But yet, a rough officer or unskilled one could tear up a vein. I just think don’t think forced blood draws would really matter or deter anyone who drinks and drives. Not from fear of the needle; when they are drunk, they won’t feel it anyway.

But thanks for thinking of hemophilia, Mr. Neyman!

See http://www.massachusettsduilawyerblog.com/refusing-the-breathalyzer/, “Forcible Roadside Blood Draws in Drunk Driving Traffic Stops on the Rise Nationally”

HemaBlog Archives