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Supreme Court upholds blood-alcohol test rules

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a high-profile case involving a Palm Beach County millionaire, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld state rules for testing blood-alcohol levels in drunken driving cases.

The rules were challenged by attorneys for millionaire John Goodman, who was convicted of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison in the 2010 traffic death of Scott Patrick Wilson.

The challenge focused on whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has adequate rules to ensure that blood-alcohol tests provide accurate results.

At least in part, the arguments involved whether the state has safeguards to prevent blood from clotting after being drawn -- potentially resulting in artificially high measurements of blood-alcohol levels.

Also, the arguments involved whether the state’s rules require proper screening of samples.

The Supreme Court, which upheld a decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal, said Goodman argued that a rule was inadequate because it did not specify that analysts must screen, document and reject “unfit” samples.

But the 35-page ruling denied such arguments.

“Taking Goodman’s contention to its logical conclusion, (one of the disputed rules) could be inadequate for an unending litany of reasons,” the justices wrote in the 6-0 opinion. “For example, the rule does not require blood analysts to wear rubber gloves to prevent contamination. Under Goodman’s reasoning, even if it is conclusively proven that each and every blood analyst in Florida wears rubber gloves when handling samples, the rule would be inadequate for failing to require them. Although it may be preferable for FDLE to promulgate a rule that specifically lays out every minute detail of a test, this (Supreme) Court is not positioned to make that determination.”

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga was recused from the case.