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Court: EMTs can take blood in drunken driving cases

December 17, 2021 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that emergency room technicians who are trained and experienced in drawing blood can draw blood for the purpose of a DWI investigation.

The court issued its opinion Thursday in a case that originated from San Juan County in which an “emergency department technician,” also licensed as an emergency medical technician, took blood samples at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington as part of a DWI investigation.

The case was one of six with similar circumstances. The defendants argued that the emergency department technicians weren’t qualified to draw blood under the state Implied Consent Act.

The Supreme Court affirmed an early decision by an appellate court that such medical professionals are qualified to draw blood under the statute so long as they were employed to do so by a hospital or physician and have adequate training and experience.

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Attorney General Hector Balderas said Friday that the decision codifies a common-sense notion that experienced EMTs are qualified to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers. He added that the ruling supports the Legislature’s intent to allow for valid blood draws to be used as evidence in DWI investigations and prosecutions.

The Supreme Court said the Legislature’s intended purpose encompassed two goals: to protect patients subject to a blood draw and to ensure the collection of a reliable blood sample for use in DWI prosecutions. Rejecting the defendants’ narrow interpretation of who is authorized to draw blood, the court said requiring a technician to have explicit laboratory experience would not achieve lawmakers’ goals.

New Mexico has made progress over the decades on curbing intoxicated driving, having dropped out of the top 10 worst states for the number of DWI fatalities per 100,000 in 2008.

The latest data shows there have been just over 100 fatalities resulting from alcohol-involved crashes so far this year. That’s notably less than the previous two years.