What Happens When a Houston DWI Case Is Affected by Blood Tube Recall?

When you are arrested for a DWI in Houston, the officer may take a blood sample to test your blood for drugs or to determine your estimated blood alcohol content (BAC). A blood test typically occurs when:

  • a suspected DWI offender refuses a breath test and a warrant for a blood test is obtained;
  • the suspected DWI offender is unconscious; or
  • it is potentially a serious DWI felony offense and the more reliable blood test is desired over a breath test.

The results of blood tests can be hard evidence against you and can lead to a conviction. That said, blood test results are not wholly unchallengeable. A smart, experienced DWI attorney in Houston will know the science, technology, and procedures behind a blood test and can identify key issues to successfully overcome a blood test result.

In cases of recalled blood vials, however, the work has been done – the recall – if the vial used in your Houston DWI arrest was affected by the recall – is sufficient to get the results suppressed from evidence. These recalls are not common, but they testify to the fact that blood tests can be inaccurate due to human or technological error and so are a good exercise in understanding how blood tests can be challenged. Here's an overview of what you should know about blood test vial recalls if your blood was taken as a result of a DWI arrest in Houston, Texas. 

If you still have questions or want to get started on your DWI defense in Houston, contact Doug Murphy today. He is Board Certified in DWI defense and Board Certified in criminal law, one of only two attorneys in all of Texas to have this distinction. He knows the law, the science, the technology, and how to put forth a comprehensive, viable defense. 

What should you know about the most recent blood vial recall in Texas?

There have been recalls in the past, but the most recent blood vial recall occurred in the first half of 2019. During the late summer of 2019, it became apparent just how large this recall was and how many cases were affected by it in the Houston metropolitan area. 

What happened with the June 2019 blood vial recall?

BD is a company that manufactures blood vials or tubes used in many DWI kits throughout Harris County, including by the Houston Police Department. The BD Vacutainer Fluoride Tubes for Blood Alcohol Determinations were voluntarily recalled by BD starting in May 2019, and the FDA published the Class 2 Device Recall on August 14, 2019.

The issue was a so-called manufacturing one – the necessary additive was not present in the tubes. As a result, the blood sample can clot and testing will produce an inaccurate result.  

Who was affected by the June 2019 blood vial recall?

Thousands of people arrested for DWI or DUI across the nation have been affected by this recall. According to Houston Forensic Science, the Houston Police Department alone had 5,200 vials from the defected lot and had already used 3,400 vials at the time of the recall, though it appears only 1,700 DWI cases in Houston are specifically affected by the recall. That number increases to approximately 11,000 potentially affected DWI cases in all of Harris County. 

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Science released a list enumerating what DWI cases may have been included in this recall. 

The key to take away from this is simple: technology is not perfect and human error is prevalent. This goes beyond the test vials. Maybe you blew into a breathalyzer or your blood sample was taken, in either case, let an experienced DWI specialist review your case and the test results to identify if there may indeed be a specific challenge to the administration of the test, the quality of the equipment, the reliability of the results, or the integrity of the process. 

What are other ways a blood test may be challenged in a Harris County DWI Case?

Defected blood vial recalls are not the only means to challenge a blood test in a DWI case in Houston. In fact, it is probably one of the least ways to do so. Here are some of the more common ways a DWI specialist may find a way to challenge your blood test, and by doing so, get your case dismissed or win an acquittal at trial.

  • The person who administered the blood draw may not have been qualified to do so or may not have performed the procedure properly. There are small details that could matter, even something so much as missing initials.
  • The equipment used to draw the blood and analyze it may not have been properly calibrated or maintained.
  • There may have been a break in the chain of custody – the whereabouts and who possesses the blood sample must be tracked at all times, and if there is a gap, that could mean a troubling issue for the prosecutor.
  • The results of the blood test may not reflect your actual blood alcohol content level at the time of driving. It is often the case with blood draws for DWI cases that the alleged offender must wait – sometimes for a long time –before the blood draw is taken. The officer – if you refused the breath test – may need to obtain a warrant. Regardless of a warrant, however, you still need to go to the police department or medical facility for the blood draw. There, you may have to wait for the lab technician to withdraw the blood. In the meantime, the alcohol in your system continues to enter your bloodstream, so by the time the blood is taken, your BAC readout may be much higher than what it was when you were actually driving. 

How can an experienced DWI Specialist Help Your DWI Defense in Houston?

Many criminal lawyers who are not DWI experts or Board Certified as such, overlook important aspects of the arrest and the test results – technical or human errors that could lead to exclusion of the blood test results as evidence.

An experienced DWI specialist, like Doug Murphy, knows what to look for and where to look for it. He will thoroughly review your arrest and all the alleged evidence of the offense. When something looks problematic, he will further investigate and take the appropriate action. 

If you want to know more about how Doug Murphy can help your DWI case in Houston, contact his office online or at (713) 229-8333today.

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