Written by attorney Patrick Mahaney

Alabama Law on the Collection of Blood Samples - Part I "Authorized Personnel"

The first question is who can draw blood for legal purposes? Under the Code of Alabama, 1975, section 32-5A-194 (a)(2), "only a physician or a registered nurse (or other qualified person)" is authorized to take a blood sample for use as evidence in civil and criminal cases. See, McGough v. Slaughter, 395 So. 2d 972 (Ala. 1981). See, also, Lankford v. Redwing Carriers, Inc., 344 So. 2d 515 (Ala. Civ. App. 1977): The purpose of allowing only physicians, registered nurses, or duly licensed clinical laboratory technicians to withdraw blood samples is to ensure that standardized procedures and equipment is used, thereby preserving the validity of the test. "Strict compliance with the Chemical Test for Intoxication Act is required." Lankford, supra.

Alabama Code section 32-5A-194 (a)(2) mandates that only certain licensed persons may draw blood samples. By statute, all licensed physicians and registered nurses are presumed competent to draw evidentiary blood samples. The term "other qualified person" is not further defined within the Code, but several prior court decisions held that a licensed tab technologist is qualified to draw blood. See, McGough v. Slaughter, 395 So. 2d 972, 975 and Rehling v. Carr, 330 So. 2d 423 (Ala. 1976).

In Powell v. State, 515 So. 2d 140 (Ala. Cr. App. 1986), the defendant submitted to a blood sample drawn by a licensed medical laboratory technician. Defense counsel later objected to the blood draw, but the Court specifically held the lab technician "was therefore qualified to draw blood samples" in accordance with the statute. Powell, 515 So. 2d at 1446. In the later case of Ingram v. State, 720 So. 2d 1036, 1041 (Ala. Cr. App. 1998), where the blood sample was drawn by a licensed medical technologist working as a medical laboratory technician, no objection was made to the technician's credentials or qualifications. However, it is instructive to note that all of the above cited cases, except Ingram, were decided prior to the comprehensive revision of the pre-existing statute to the current 32- 5A-194, commonly known as the "Chemical Test for Intoxication Act." The original statute was enacted in 1969 and was codified at Title 36, section 155. The original statute was worded more exactly than the current statute. In the prior Title 36, section 155, in paragraph (C), the statute stated the following: "Only a physician, registered nurse, or duly licensed clinical laboratory technologist or clinical laboratory technician acting at the request of a law enforcement officer may withdraw blood for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content therein."

The current Code section was enacted in 1988, and upon revision, concerning the appropriate persons authorized to draw blood samples, retained the terms "physician" and "registered nurse" but replaced "licensed clinical laboratory technologist" and "clinical laboratory technician" with the words "other qualified person." The term "other qualified person" is not further statutorily defined . Presumably, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences has the authority under the Alabama Administrative Code to determine appropriate qualifications or set standards for credentialing for persons to meet the term "other qualified person," but as of this writing, DFS has not done so. Therefore, the term "other qualified person" is left open to the sound discretion of the trial court to determine the proper training, certification, and credentials of the individual that drew the blood sample.

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