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Crime: New Mexico High Court Rules EMTs Can Draw Blood for DWI Investigations

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The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Thursday that emergency room technicians are allowed to draw blood for DWI investigations.

The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the earlier decision from the appellate court that as long as they were employed to do so by a hospital or physician and have proper training and experience, emergency medical technicians are qualified to draw blood under the statute. In this photo, at an undisclosed hospital, vials of blood are taken from a cancer patient on Sept. 15, 2016, in New York City. © Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the earlier decision from the appellate court that as long as they were employed to do so by a hospital or physician and have proper training and experience, emergency medical technicians are qualified to draw blood under the statute. In this photo, at an undisclosed hospital, vials of blood are taken from a cancer patient on Sept. 15, 2016, in New York City.

The ruling was for a case that came from San Juan County where an "emergency department technician," also licensed as an emergency medical technician, took blood samples at San Juan Medical Center in Farmington for a DWI investigation.

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The case was one of six with similar happenings. The defendants argued that under the state Implied Consent Act, emergency department technicians were not qualified to draw blood. The defendant in this case, Brian Adams, cited a statute that states "only a doctor, a nurse, and some technicians" are permitted to take blood samples in DWI investigations, according to KRQE.

While the district court ruled in Adam's favor, the state appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, saying the individual in question should be permitted to draw blood based on the medical professional's training, experience, and employment, KRQE reported.

The Court of Appeals reversed the district's ruling, prompting Adams to request the Supreme Court review the decision, the Office of the Attorney General said in a news release, according to KRQE.

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The Supreme Court upheld the earlier decision from the appellate court that as long as they were employed to do so by a hospital or physician and have proper training and experience, emergency medical technicians are qualified to draw blood under the statute.

Attorney General Hector Balderas said Friday that the decision codifies a common-sense notion that experienced EMTs are qualified to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers. He added that the ruling supports the Legislature's intent to allow for valid blood draws to be used as evidence in DWI investigations and prosecutions.

The Supreme Court said the Legislature's intended purpose encompassed two goals: to protect patients subject to a blood draw and to ensure the collection of a reliable blood sample for use in DWI prosecutions. Rejecting the defendants' narrow interpretation of who is authorized to draw blood, the court said requiring a technician to have explicit laboratory experience would not achieve lawmakers' goals.

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New Mexico has made progress over the decades on curbing intoxicated driving, having dropped out of the top 10 worst states for the number of DWI fatalities per 100,000 in 2008.

The latest data shows there have been just over 100 fatalities resulting from alcohol-involved crashes so far this year. That's notably less than the previous two years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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