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Blood Testing

Georgia has approved one company, Tritech Forensics, as a vendor of approved blood collection kits for DUI investigations.  The tubes or vacutainers are still manufactured by Becton-Dickinson.  When blood is taken for a forensic blood test it should be drawn from the suspect by using a vacutainer. Those in the kits provided to law enforcement personnel will have a gray stopper and will also contain two powdery substances -sodium fluoride, the preservative, and potassium oxalate, the anticoagulant. These vacutainers are also vacuum sealed, which helps explain why they are called vacutainers.

The blood alcohol testing kits distributed to police agencies have an expiration date on the outside of the cardboard box, which is the date beyond which the vacuum seal is no longer guaranteed. However, as a practical matter it is uncommon for a phlebotomist, police officer, or state crime lab technician to ever inspect, much less make a notation concerning, the expiration date. In other words, nobody looks, but everybody takes it for granted.

In our experience there are at least three areas of potential problems that could affect the accuracy of the state’s blood test:

  • A vacutainer that has a defective seal, which cannot be detected once the blood has been tested, because the vial containing the blood has been opened.
  • An improper amount of the preservative sodium fluoride in the vial. Because these vials are infrequently refrigerated prior to their arrival at the state crime lab testing facility, having the correct proper amount of sodium fluoride is necessary if an accurate test is desired. When a tube has too much or too little, we expect the result will be reported higher than it should have been.

    When a seal is not effective, one or more organisms from the surroundings, including the common Candida albicans, will often wind up in the vials. In those cases where there is insufficient sodium fluoride in the tube, these organisms can and will grow. Once again, the most common is Candida albicans, a yeast-like substance that is known to be quite resistant to sodium fluoride. When both sugar is available in the presence of an elevated temperature, Candida albicans will generate ethanol by way of fermentation.
  • An insufficient level of potassium oxalate, the anti-coagulant.

    If there is too little potassium oxalate in the vacutainer, it is reasonable to expect the blood will coagulate or “micro-coagulate.” While the former may be visible to the naked eye, micro-coagulation is almost never detected in the typical forensic setting. Since this will alter the ratio of liquid to solid in the blood being tested, we will encounter a false high test result, because ethanol is water soluble and, therefore, will be concentrated in the liquid, as opposed to the coagulated and relatively solid, portion of the blood.

    We are quite confident that when your blood is tested for alcohol the crime lab will make no effort to detect the presence of Candida Albicans, the lab will make no effort to inspect the vacutainer seal, and the lab will not even pretend to check the amount of sodium fluoride or potassium oxalate in the tube containing your blood.

If we can show that any of these problems occurred, there is a considerable likelihood that you will have a false high blood alcohol concentration reported by the Division of Forensic Sciences.

More about Chemical Evidence Testing for DUI

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