WRAL, a North Carolina news agency, has reported that a Selma, NC police officer handcuffed an emergency room nurse who refused to withdraw blood from a DUI suspect the police brought in for blood testing. The nurse was eventually released from the handcuffs and the suspect’s charge was later dropped because the arrest was unsupported by probable cause. The Motor Vehicle Driver Protection Act of 2006, S.L. 2006-253, requires medical providers and other qualified persons to withdraw blood in implied-consent cases pursuant to an officer’s request. Id.
S.L. 2006-253 amended G.S. 20-139.1(c) to provide that “when a blood test is specified as the type of chemical analysis by a law enforcement officer, a physician, registered nurse, emergency medical technician, or other qualified person shall withdraw the blood sample…and no further authorization or approval is required.” Id. This is applicable when an officer seeks to remove blood from someone who is incapacitated, or when an officer requests that blood be withdrawn pursuant to a search warrant since the blood to be seized is specified in the warrant.
Also, S.L. 2006-253 enacted G.S. 20-139.1(d)(1) and (d)(2), which authorize both the warrantless withdrawal of blood following a defendants refusal to be tested, and it prescribes procedures for compelled warrantless blood draws. The basic premise is that when a blood sample is requested by a police officer, no further authorization or approval is required, by medical professionals or others.
However, the statutes further provide that “if the person withdrawing the blood…requests written confirmation of the officer’s request for the withdrawal of blood…the officer shall furnish it before blood is withdrawn.” The medical provider may only refuse “if it reasonably appears that the procedure cannot be performed without endangering the safety of the person collecting the sample of the safety of the person from whom the sample is being collected.”
The point here that is not quite as clear as to whether a medical provider’s refusal to withdraw blood amounts to a crime. While it is not addressed in the statute, the most likely criminal charges are resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer in violation of G.S. 14-223, but there is no specific provision outlining such an ordeal as a crime.
If a medical provider does refuse to withdraw blood when confronted with a search warrant; does this add up to criminal contempt? The problem is that the warrants for blood do not direct individuals who are not parties to perform any duty. Therefore, it is impossible, by abiding by the statute, for a medical provider to willfully disobey the court order.
If you are a medical provider, or the suspect who was having blood extracted, call the law offices of Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP for an understanding of your rights. The legal verdict is still out on how the law will go in this type of situation. It is important to know how these types of situations will be resolved. Call our North Carolina office at 704-499-9000, or toll-free at 877-374-5999.