Questions raised over car accident blood sample

Date: May 13, 2015

The Supreme Court of New South Wales has heard a case where a man was found to have high levels of alcohol in his blood stream when he crashed a leased car back in 2011.

The collision occurred on November 25 and the plaintiff – a vehicle leasing company – argued that the defendant had signed an agreement before renting the vehicle. Through this, he acknowledged that he would not use the car while under the influence of alcohol, or when his blood alcohol content exceeded the level stated by New South Wales law.

However, the defendant sustained a car accident injury on a private road. The defendant maintained that he was left liable for the damages sustained following the total loss of control of the car.

He entered the car park of a residential apartment building on Poplar Street, Surry Hills. Police records show that the defendant hit a wall with the front portion of the car at a speed of around 50 kilometres per hour.

An attending officer recorded that he was able to smell alcohol on the man's breath, while his speech was also incoherent and slurred. The defendant was subsequently taken to the emergency department of a nearby hospital where he received treatment for his injuries.

The defendant admitted to consuming six standard glasses of wine at a work function. The Supreme Court dictated that although this evidence was supplied – and the attending officer revealed that the defendant had been drinking – it was not sufficient to determine that the blood alcohol level exceeded that stated by NSW law.

Another problem arises when the blood alcohol certificate was called into question by car accident lawyers. The police officer at the time did not request this, and neither did any other law enforcement agent. Instead, a nurse or doctor at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney took a blood sample from the defendant so it could later be assessed for alcohol content.

Under the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999, it was not possible to take an unauthorised blood sample in these circumstances. This is because the crash took place in a private car park, rather than one that was accessible to members of the public.

The doctor or nurse who took the sample may not have been aware at the time that the collision had occurred on private property. In light of this, the magistrate decided that the blood alcohol sample had been illegally obtained.

Even though the defendant had pleaded guilty, this realisation means that the initial verdict is called into question. The costs faced as a result of the trials will now be borne by all the relevant parties.

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