Senator Steve Saland (R,C Poughkeepsie) today announced he has introduced legislation that would allow medical personnel to draw blood from a suspected impaired driver at the request of a police officer. (S.7500) "Current law is burdened by a loophole, if not by a gaping hole," said Saland.
"Unfortunately, intoxicated drivers who are involved in motor vehicle collisions too often escape prosecution," said Senator Saland. "If a police officer requests that an EMT draw blood to test for intoxication after a collision, this evidence will be suppressed unless a physician is present to supervise the procedure. This overly restrictive requirement impedes the ability of police and prosecutors to enforce laws against intoxicated or impaired drivers and must be changed. We must do everything possible to make roads in New York safe for travel."
Currently, medical practice allows trained medical personnel to routinely withdraw blood from individuals without the direction and supervision of a physician, while the vehicle and traffic law (VTL) does not. In response to this problem, which is not unique to New York, a number of states have enacted legislation that allows the legal standard to mirror the medical community's standard for the withdrawal of blood.
According to Saland, a defendant in Dutchess County exploited this glaring statutory omission and was responsible for the death of Robert Raphael Jr., who died on October 20, 2004 as a result of the actions of the defendant. The offender, who was injured, was transported to the nearest hospital, which was just across the New York state border in Connecticut. The arresting officer, unsure of the legal efficacy of attempting to get a blood test administered out of state, requested an advanced EMT to withdraw blood at the scene, who did so, using accepted medical standards.
"Although the EMT was authorized to withdraw the blood through written authorization from the Connecticut hospital, and while the statute was followed as currently written, the Court indicated that the blood test would be suppressed but because the proceedure was not supervised by a physician. The prosecutor had to accept a plea that resulted in local jail time for a drugged driver that should have received a more appropriate sentence of state prison," Saland continued.
"In accidents where a death or serious injury occurs, the interest in public safety by obtaining blood alcohol content (BAC) evidence of driving while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol outweighs the driver's privilege of refusing the test," Saland said. "This important legislation, which is fully supported by the National Highway Traffic Administration, will ensure that individuals who decide to drink and drive will be punished to the full extent of the law," Saland concluded.