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Sens. Head, Merritt: Senate Approves Bill to Improve Intoxication Tests

STATEHOUSE (Jan. 29, 2013) — With a vote of 48-0, the full Senate today approved legislation authored by State Sens. Randy Head (R-Logansport) and Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) to improve Indiana’s tests for intoxication in the event of a drunk driving accident.

Senate Bill 168 would amend the policy on blood-alcohol content tests to allow any qualified, properly trained individual to take a bodily substance sample and have it used in court. Currently, the law only allows licensed physicians, nurses or advanced emergency medical technicians to obtain the samples that are permitted to be used as evidence.

“Courts will only consider fluid samples as evidence if they were obtained legitimately, and for good reason,” Head said. “However, alcohol could move through an impaired driver’s system before a professional who is currently deemed qualified has the opportunity to take the needed blood work — creating a loophole where a drunk driver’s fluid sample could be thrown out of court. This could keep someone from being held accountable for a victim’s death or injury.”

Merritt said he is involved in authoring this legislation because of one such case in his Senate district. In August 2010, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer David Bisard was involved in a serious automobile accident, injuring two people and killing another. His blood alcohol content measured at more than three times the legal limit but was initially thrown out as court evidence because it was drawn by a medical assistant.

“I’m not here to make a judgment on the Bisard case,” Merritt said. “But, current state statute on this matter is filled with ambiguity and must be fixed. Clarifying who can legitimately draw a blood sample will give both law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians more direction in the case of an accident.”

SB 168 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Head said Reps. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) and Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) will sponsor the bill.