Question: What is the difference between a hospital blood draw and a police blood draw in Maryland?
Answer: When you are pulled over or, I guess, a better example would be if you were in an accident of some kind and you were taken to the hospital, nothing seriously being wrong with you, but they take you to the hospital nonetheless; and one of the first things they’re going to do at the hospital is, they always draw blood from your arm. The reason that the hospital is doing this is because they need to look for enzymes to see if anything internally is damaged and, in addition to that, to need to see if you have any alcohol and how much you have in your system, because they may chose to give you some medications, which may interact badly with any alcohol if somebody had consumed a lot of alcohol. So, hospitals will routinely draw your blood for that purpose. And, obviously, when they do that that’s called a hospital draw.
When they test your blood for alcohol, it’s going to have a certain BAC number based on your whole blood cell count and the number can be equated to a BAC number, which is typically a little bit reduced than the number that’s going to be reflected in your medical records. Now, because it’s a hospital blood draw, they can technically use that in a court of law against you, but they have to bring in a state expert to talk about the number and put it in proper reference. That would typically be a Maryland state toxicologist that they would bring in who needs to say that the BAC number based on the blood alcohol content from the hospital is “x” and they need to put it in reference, because they do not get the normal presumptions under Maryland law.
Conversely, if you’re at the hospital and they draw your blood, typically the officer will be right there, right next to the nurse with a vial and asking the nurse if she would be kind enough to draw some blood for his little vial. He will then take the vial and package it up ever-so-safely and send it to the Maryland crime lab in Pikesville. They will run your blood number, and they will come back with a BAC number which the State’s attorney and the courts will use against you. In a police blood draw, they could use that number directly against you, and they do not need to bring in an expert. That’s the big difference; in a police blood draw, they do not need to bring in an expert, and in a hospital blood draw, they do need to bring in an expert. And if they fail to bring in an expert, that number should not come into evidence because technically it’s irrelevant, and it’s irrelevant because they have no expert to put the number in reference. So, a hospital blood draw tends to be more useful to a defendant because the State can’t exactly use it and there’s also many ways to go about trying to suppress that number.
Whereas in a police blood draw, it’s more technically synonymous with the machine that you blow in at the station where they get to utilize that number against you directly. Another important thing, which is interesting, is in a hospital blood draw case, the MVA will not use that number against you at all in terms of suspending your drivers license. So you get that added benefit of the MVA not getting involved. Whereas in a police blood draw, the State treats that as a formal BAC number and the MVA will, in fact, use that number against you when determining what to do with your driving privilege. So, there is a substantial difference between a hospital blood draw and a police blood draw.