You’re involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault. You’re unconscious and end up in hospital. You’ve suffered injuries and the police take a blood sample, maybe without even obtaining your consent. It sounds like the start of a dodgy TV commercial for injury compensation lawyers yet for thousands of law-abiding people each year this will now be a reality following the introduction of the excess drugs offence.
Sadly, road traffic accidents are a fact of life in spite of the great strides that have been made to reduce their number in recent years. Accidents can have terrible and far-reaching consequences meaning that it is understandable that the legal system will look to apportion blame. The reality is that most accidents are caused by a number of different factors, rather than the fault of one person.
Preliminary tests do not exist for most of the substances for which it is illegal to drive with a level over the prescribed limit. Therefore, when an accident has taken place and no preliminary saliva test has taken place and one has taken place but is negative, a blood sample will often amount to a fishing expedition on the part of the police without any real basis for arising suspicion existing in the first place.
If the police have infringed your rights by taking part in such an exercise, then you need a solicitor who will examine each and every part of the procedure followed to consider where technical defences could arise.
The police can take specimens of blood or urine at the hospital and only after they have ensured that the doctor in charge of the patient’s care does not object. As the procedure used at the police station is more complicated than the one used at the hospital it is more common for the police to make mistakes with it.
There are a number of matters that a police office should be mindful of when conducting the procedure at a hospital. Should a blood or urine sample be required? Does the accused person have the mental capacity to understand the nature of the request? Have they suffered concussion? If they are unconscious or only partly conscious, should a specimen be taken without their consent? Is a separate medical opinion required? If the police fail to take these matters into account, departures from the correct procedure may occur.
In addition, it will also be necessary for the prosecution to establish that the analysis of blood or urine relied upon in a case was carried out in such a way that the results are reliable.