Police Station Procedure

Police may require a suspect to provide either two breath samples for analysis by means of an approved device or a sample of blood or urine for laboratory testing. This is usually done at a police station, because it is almost unheard of for a hospital in the United Kingdom or the United States to be equipped with an evidentiary breath testing device. Blood or urine samples can only be collected at a police station or hospital. In the United Kingdom, such a request cannot be made at a police station, unless the constable making the requirement has reasonable cause to believe that, for medical reasons, a specimen of breath cannot be provided, or at the time the requirement is made, an approved breath analysis device is not available, or not practical to use, or that the suspected offense is one under Section 3A or 4 of the RTA, and the constable making the requirement has been advised by a doctor that the condition of the person may result from some drug. This situation does not occur in the United States where, if appropriate staff are available, both blood and urine may be obtained at the police station.

In the United Kingdom, if a specimen other than breath is required, police may demand either a urine or blood test. If blood cannot be obtained as, for example, might well be the case in a chronic intravenous drug abuser, then a urine sample must be provided within 1 hour of the request for its provision being made and after the provision of a previous specimen of urine. In the United States, urine specimens are generally not considered admissible proof of intoxication. A large number of studies have shown that the ratio between blood alcohol and pooled urine is highly unreliable and unpredictable (35,36). Ureteral urine, on the other hand, has an alcohol concentration 1.3 times greater than blood (23). Collection of ureteral urine is often attempted at autopsy, but for obvious reasons, is not an option with living patients.

Breath samples can only be analyzed with approved devices. Those currently in use include the Intoximeter EC/IR, Camic Datamaster, Lion Intoxilyzer 6000, and Drager Alcotest 7100 (Australia). Only officers who are trained to use the machine are allowed to conduct the intoximeter procedure, and the lower of two readings is taken. The subject must not have smoked for 10 minutes or have consumed alcohol or used a mouth spray or mouthwash, taken any medication, or consumed any food for 20 minutes before the breath test.

If the reading is below the prescribed limit of 35 ^g of alcohol per 100 mL of breath, no action is taken unless impairment through drugs is suspected. If that is the case, a forensic physician should be called. If the level is between 36 and 39, no prosecution can occur unless there is impairment. If the level is between 40 and 50, the person is given the option of having the breath sample reading replaced by a specimen of blood or urine, but it is for the police officer to decide which, in accordance with Section 7. At levels over 51, the person is charged with an offense. Different rules and regulations, but with much the same intent, apply in other countries.

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