Delaware Supreme Court reverses DUI conviction where expired blood test kit was used and testing instructions were not followed

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Delaware Supreme Court reverses DUI conviction where expired blood test kit was used and testing instructions were not followed

Delaware DUI Defender James M. “Matt” Stiller this week secured the reversal of a DUI conviction. The case was originally tried in the Superior Court where the trial judge allowed in blood test evidence indicating that the defendant had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.12.

The arrest was made and the blood sample was drawn on September 2, 2009. The officer used a blood test kit that expired on August 31, 2009. The manufacturer’s specification sheet stated that an expired test kit should not be used.

Further, the investigating officer testified on cross-examination that the “vacutainer” tube containing the blood was “shaken vigorously” to get it to mix with the anticoagulant in the tube. The manufacturer’s instructions stated not to shake the tube vigorously, but instead to gently invert the tube. Shaking the test tube vigorously causes tiny air bubbles to form, which in turn causes clotting of the blood, which can lead to the higher relative alcohol content in the mixture.

The Supreme Court ruled that the DUI conviction could not stand and that either of these defects in the blood testing process would have been sufficient to invalidate the procedure. This opinion reaffirms the principle of Clawson v. State, 876 A.2d 187 (Del.2005) that the State must follow the manufacturer’s protocols in order for a scientific blood-alcohol content test result to be admissible.

To read a copy of the Supreme Court en banc opinion in Hunter v. State, click here:  Hunter v State.

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