The Sneaky "Drunk"


A man is brought in by police for blood draw after being arrested for suspicion of DUI.

It was very busy, so the patient and officer waited in the waiting room for an hour or so before being brought back to a room. Typically a serum alcohol level decreases by 20-25 mg/dl (.20 to .25) per hour. Already if the patient’s alcohol level was borderline high, it is now below the legal limit.

Upon arrival, the patient refused to submit to the DUI kit. He did allow the nurse to draw blood, though.
So the police officer loudly commented “What a dope. Now all we have to do is subpoena the hospital records to get his alcohol level.”

The nurse drew the patient’s blood, put the tubes in a biohazard bag, and set the tubes on the tray table next to the bed.

The lab tech came into the room to get the blood tubes. When she couldn’t find them, the patient told her that the nurse came back in and took the tubes with her.
“Oh, OK.” So she left to go back to the lab to run the blood.

The nurse came back into the room, filled out the paperwork for the officer, and discharged the patient to police custody.

About 45 minutes later, we get a call from the police officer. While the patient was being searched at the police station, the police officer made an interesting find in the patient’s coat pocket: A bag with multiple tubes of blood.


Checked the computer. No results. No blood received.

The patient grabbed his blood when the officer wasn’t looking.

I’m not a criminal lawyer, but I’m betting that DUI case will be thrown out.


This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on WhiteCoat’s Call Room, please e-mail me.


    • Generally you can refuse to take a breath test (or any other field sobriety test), but doing so gives the state the right to revoke your license for several years. Still better than a DUI, fines, court costs, attorney fees, and your license is still revoked, though.

  1. However drunk the patient might have been, he evidently had a couple of functioning brain cells left. Too bad he waited until the ER to use them.

    The custody of samples issue is generally somewhat more worrisome – we saw this with the current testing lab scandal in Massachusetts. With poor controls on custody and handling of lab samples, trusting lab work to make criminal conviction decisions becomes problematic.

    The sports world (which has money on the line) has addressed the problem by having samples split at the time of taking, and supposedly no single person ever again handles both samples.

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