DWI blood draw decision from New Mexico Supreme Court stems from San Juan County DWI case

The DWI case will resume court proceedings

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • The state supreme court on Dec. 16 ruled that an emergency department technician with training and experience can draw blood from someone accused of DWI as part of an investigation.
  • The supreme court case was brought about by defendant Brian Adams, who was challenging the use of his blood test as evidence in his DWI case in San Juan County.
  • Caitlin Smith, who argued the case for Adams through the New Mexico Law Office of the Public Defender, said in a statement her and her client disagree with the “Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of the statute.”

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Supreme Court has issued a ruling that will affect which hospital personnel can draw blood from a DWI suspect.

The decision comes after a San Juan County man challenged the use of the evidence in his DWI case, and it will have statewide ramifications.

The state supreme court on Dec. 16 ruled that an emergency department technician with training and experience can draw blood from someone accused of DWI as part of an investigation, according to a copy of the ruling.

The supreme court case was brought about by defendant Brian Adams, who was challenging the use of his blood test as evidence in his DWI case in San Juan County.

Caitlin Smith, who argued the case for Adams through the New Mexico Law Office of the Public Defender, said in a statement her and her client disagree with the “Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of the statute.”

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“We are glad the Court recognizes that the State must still prove that the person who drew blood had the appropriate training and qualifications for that specialized task,” Smith said.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien told The Daily Times it was a positive decision for the state of New Mexico, especially for rural jurisdictions.

He added the DA’s office appreciated the efforts of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office to present the case.

The state AG’s office on Dec. 17 issued a news release, stating the office was pleased by the decision.

Details of the state supreme court ruling

Adams was arrested for DWI after admitting to drinking whiskey and taking Suboxone and Xanax pills.

He signed paperwork consenting to the blood draw, allowing a San Juan Regional Medical Center emergency department technician and licensed EMT to use a blood draw kit.

The results showed Adams was negative for alcohol but tested positive for “marijuana-related metabolites, benzodiazepines, and synthetic opioids,” according to the ruling.

The defendant’s attorney argued the EMT was not qualified to draw the blood and a magistrate court judge denied Adams’ motion to suppress the evidence.

From there, a district court judge overturned that decision and ruled the blood evidence would not be admissible.

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It was the New Mexico Court of Appeals which reversed the district court decision and allowed the evidence to be used during a trial.

The appeals court also ruled the EMT was qualified to use the test because she was licensed and had training and experience in drawing blood.

The supreme court judges upheld the state appeals court decision. This ruling affects five other DWI cases in San Juan County, O’Brien said.

He added if the supreme court ruled in favor of Adams, it would make it really difficult for rural parts of the state to administer the blood draw test if a qualified worker was not available.

The DA’s office also thanked the Farmington hospital for making an extra effort to have a licensed nurse or phlebotomist conduct the blood draw.

Adams’ case and the other cases affected by the decision were remanded back to district court to resume court proceedings.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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