November 19, 2015

Palm Beach DUI Defense Lawyer on Probable Cause to Draw Blood in Car Crashes

Florida drunk driving laws have created a dilemma between doctor patient confidentiality and prosecuting DUI offenders

Florida, like most other States, permits law enforcement officers to extract the blood of a driver, who’s been involved in an automobile crash that involves serious bodily injury or death.  Law enforcement officers’ use of Florida’s Implied Consent law to extract a driver’s blood to determine whether or not the driver was impaired at the time of the crash causing serious bodily injury or death is usually done to determine the amount of illegal or prescription drugs in the person’s blood at the time of the crash.

In Florida, law enforcement officers must have probable cause to believe that the driver involved in a serious bodily injury or death, was under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs at the time of the wreck causing the injuries or death.  The Florida probable cause standard for DUI crashes involving serious bodily injury or death is an easy hurdle for law enforcement officials to jump over.

Florida law allows law enforcement officials to determine probable cause to extract blood from a driver who was involved in a crash that resulted in serious bodily injury or death from evidence provided to them by hospital personnel.  For instance, a driver involved in a crash that involves serious bodily injury or death may be rushed to the hospital before law enforcement officials arrive on scene to even begin their investigation. While at the hospital, emergency trauma staff may recognize what they consider to be signs of impairment like: bizarre behavior, track or needle marks, dilated pupils, confusion, combative behavior and other behaviors associated with illegal drugs and the overuse of prescription drugs. Once law enforcement officials gain the information about the suspected impaired driver from hospital staff, and sometimes even hours later, the law enforcement officer will order the hospital to draw blood or save the already drawn blood for impairment testing.

Law enforcement officers’ use of hospital staff statements, notes, and reports to determine probable cause of a driver’s impairment is up sharply in Florida DUI crashes. The rise of law enforcement officers gaining probable cause in DUI crashes through third party sources is attributable in big part to the overuse of prescription drugs by Floridian motorists involved in automobile crashes resulting in serious bodily injury and death.

As a practicing DUI defense lawyer in West Palm Beach, Florida, the dilemma that has been caused by hospital staff becoming arms of the State in their prosecution of suspected impaired drivers causing severe bodily injury or death are two fold: (i) withholding of emergency medical treatment and (ii) breaching of the doctor patient privilege. I only come to the conclusion of the two previous points because of the stories and evidence that I have gathered in over 12 years of fighting for clients accused of DUI’s causing severe bodily injury and death.

Recently, in September 2015, I began to investigate a DUI crash in Okeechobee County, Florida that resulted in the death of a motorist. While investigating the DUI death, it became apparent through obtained videos, witness statements and physical evidence that the suspect driver was suffering from some type of medical condition. But because law enforcement officers believed that the suspected DUI driver was impaired, not only did law enforcement officials withhold medical treatment but so did the medical staff upon arriving to the hospital. As it is in my opinion, their only reason for providing medical intervention was in fact to draw blood for prosecutorial purposes, not to render aid to the sick patient.

Again just this month, I began to investigate a DUI crash that was reported by the Jupiter Police Department to cause severe bodily injury in Palm Beach County, Florida.  During my investigation, it was revealed that the crash was low impact with under $500.00 in damage and that the suspected DUI driver only went to the hospital because of chest pain associated with prior cardiac problems. While at the hospital, the driver provided his list of medications to the treating emergency room physician, who then reported the information to the awaiting officer in the lobby. The facts then show, and in my opinion “both” the doctor and law enforcement officer brainstormed, to determine that probable cause existed to draw blood from the suspected DUI driver. Under this type of scenario, the emergency room doctor uses the patient’s information against him, in what will be the prosecution of the driver, as the Office of the Palm Beach County State Attorney has in fact filed the criminal DUI charges in this matter.

Under the wisdom of the Florida Legislature and Florida Appellate courts, one has to question if the intended purpose of the Florida’s Implied Consent Law was to divulge “doctor patient” information to the government and to withhold medical treatment of the injured for the sake of prosecuting a DUI driver is in fact wise on their prospective parts? The answer to this question is obviously no! Government has divested Floridians of too much of their freedoms for the sake of “public safety.” The conversations between the patient and their doctor are not sacred under the Implied Consent Laws. Withholding medical care simply because the “investigation” of a suspected DUI driver is more worthy than their health is now ingrained in Florida’s Implied Consent Laws. Those who are willing to trade important freedoms like, doctor patient privileges and their own medical care, for what they perceive as “security” will awaken one day to find out that they have lost all freedoms.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or are facing charges like DUI, DUI causing severe bodily injury or death, contact West Palm Beach DUI defense attorney Andrew D. Stine at 561 880 4300  . Hire Stine or Do the Time!


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561 880 4300                          



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