What Sort Of Expert Witnesses Are Utilized In Blood Draw Cases?
Typically, for the defense side, we use a forensic toxicologist and that person is someone who has experience in blood draws. Someone who has done studies, reports, analyzed people who have done both breath and blood tests at the same time and seen how the results can be different over time, someone who can explain absorption and elimination of alcohol.
Typically, this is someone who has worked in a lab, usually it’s someone who has worked for a police department lab or a county lab doing analysis but these are usually people with a lot of experience and the cost at a DMV hearing can be anywhere from three or four hundred thousand dollars or more.
At trial, it can be many thousands of dollars to have these forensic toxicologists testify and if they need to come back for a second or third day, it’s even more, but a lot of preparation is done between the attorney and the toxicologist. If they have a good working relation, they may not do a lot of prep because the more they talk about a case, if you talk about things with an expert, that’s information you are required to turn over to the prosecution.
These may be some of the issues that I talk about, but it is really important to have a very strong forensic toxicologist because it’s hard in these cases to just attack the other side. Sometimes, that’s what we do because the client doesn’t have the money to hire the forensic toxicologist or what our toxicologist might say might not be that helpful and we are better off just attacking theirs, getting theirs to admit to certain things that help us establish reasonable doubt.
Does Alcohol Burn Off Time In The Human Body Vary From Person To Person?
People burn off at different rates. Scientific studies have shown that people burn off from about a 0.01 to about a 0.029 with the average being 0.015 to 0.018. What that basically means is that the average person and most people burn off just under a drink an hour and that drink would be four or five ounces of wine and not a high alcohol wine, 12 ounces of a 5% beer or about an ounce and a quarter to an ounce and a half of 80-proof alcohol.
If you have a drink, it takes a little while to absorb, and for a standard drink, it’s going to take just over an hour to burn off; however, that can slow down if there are other things in your system, a lot of liquids, especially foods, especially proteins, things that can slow down the alcohol from absorbing into your system.
What happens is when you drink alcohol, it starts absorbing into your system right away because it’s going in through your mouth, your throat, and the walls of your stomach. Seventy-five to eighty percent of the alcohol absorbs in your system in your small intestine. That happens after the valve, the pyloric valve at the bottom of your stomach opens and lets the contents of the stomach into the small intestine.
The alcohol will absorb into the walls of the small intestine, which is where most of the nutrients that your body gets are absorbed and go into your blood and circulate, and it takes a while to circulate to your extremities, your fingers, your toes and your brain and your brain is where impairment happens once the alcohol hits your brain. So, it can take a while to get into your system and the longer it takes to get into your system, the longer it takes to get out of your system. So, absorption depends upon the individual and what is in your system.
Burn-off or elimination of alcohol will happen at a rate which is different for different people, but we have averages. So, if you are at a 0.08 blood alcohol level, you may need a good five hours to burn that whole amount off, to get down to a zero alcohol level. If you’re lower than that, obviously, it does not take as long for the alcohol to burn off out of your system.
Drugs, depending on what kind, eliminate from your system at different rates as well. The effectiveness of the drug or the potency of the drug is usually more of an immediate effect. After a short period of time, it’s usually gone from your system. An example would be marijuana, which will affect you a lot more from a very short time after ingesting or smoking it to the time when it’s no longer effective, which is, depending on how much you smoke and how strong it is, anywhere from half hour or an hour to two or three hours later.
The safe thing with marijuana is to wait a good six hours until you drive and if you don’t, that’s something that different people advise different lengths but if you tell an officer that you smoked within the last three hours or so, that’s not real smart because you’re going to get forensic toxicologists and experts testifying for the prosecutor, saying that that is still affecting or impairing your ability to drive.
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