You may be surprised to learn that you do not have an automatic right to give a blood sample at the police station, even if you ask for it. Section 7(3) Road Traffic Act 1988 says that a blood specimen can only be requested in the following circumstances;
The police cannot charge you with drink driving before the results of the blood test have been obtained, even if your roadside reading was high. You will be released under investigation until the results come back; and do not usually have to return to the police station (unless the police want to interview you). Blood tests can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months. You can continue to drive over this period, unless the police tell you otherwise.
During this time the police will send your sample to an independent laboratory for analysis. The legal limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. If the result is greater than 80mg the police will charge you (unless we can stop them). There are even circumstances where the police can charge you with drink driving despite your results being under the legal limit!
Due to it becoming common practice for the police to leave blood samples lying around, the government commissioned an investigation by the HM Inspectorate. The report advised that blood samples be sent to the laboratory within one week of being taken.
The report, however, seems not to have reached the police, as it is now more common for samples to remain at police stations for up to 3 weeks before being sent to the laboratory.
The issue here is that blood is an organic material and will decompose overtime. A consequence of this is that alcohol is created in the blood (a process known as fermentation). Every time a refrigerator door is opened, the temperature inside the fridge will fluctuate. This can disturb the stability of the specimen and may speed up the fermentation process.
One way to prevent fermentation is to add a preservative to the sample, such a sodium fluoride. This should be added by the nurse/doctor who takes the blood sample. Do you remember seeing them add anything to the sample? If not, the sample may have increased in alcohol concentration before it reached the lab. To make matter worse, the laboratories instructed by the police do not test for preservative! This means that if the nurse/doctor failed to add the preservative, no one will know.
If your sample is above the prescribed limit, you will be charged and sent to court. The first court hearing is particularly important; it is the first opportunity you will have to review the evidence against you and enter a plea with the court.
At the first court hearing the CPS should provide a report confirming the results of the blood test, known as the MG22(b) or ‘Streamlined Forensic Toxicology Report (SFR1)’. This report should contain all the relevant technical information that we would need to check, including:
Any inconsistencies or discrepancies with the report would quickly be highlighted to the prosecutor, who may agree immediately to drop the case. Alternatively, we may decide to keep the issue quiet and raise it at a later date when it would do more damage to the CPS’s case.
The Streamlined Forensic Reporting Protocol is a relatively new method of introducing forensic evidence. It was introduced as a cost cutting measure. Our team regularly win cases because the police and CPS fail to understand the requirements of the protocol and the obligations it places on them. We would be pleased to discuss this with you.
Take a look at the example below. The SFR1 was purposely designed to look official so as to encourage defendants to plead guilty. In reality, it is a standardised template that proves very little. It could even be used to win your case.
If you look closely, you’ll see that you have 14 days to respond to the SFR1 and confirm whether it is disputed. This is arguable one of the most important steps that you can take to win your case. By rejecting the SFR1 in writing, we force the CPS to produce additional forensic evidence (known as an SFR2 and the analytical data pack). A huge number of cases that we defend will fail because the CPS never present this additional evidence.
If any of the following applies in your case, you should call us immediately;
M.A.J. Law specialise in defending motorists nationwide. Our team have over 50 years of combined experience and first-hand knowledge of most courts in England and Wales. Free advice? Please get in touch.