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Holland v State – wrong name on blood sample is not an abuse of discretion in overruling chain of custody

Holland v. State, A14A1119, September 23, 2014. Donnie Holland pulled out in front of a Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputy who allegedly had activated his emergency blue lights and siren.  Trooper Garmon of the Georgia State Patrol investigated the accident and notice no indications of impairment in Holland at the scene. Trooper Garmon followed Holland to the Hospital where he had been transported to finish up his investigation. Garmon observed that Holland was “a little slow in responding,” that his speech was slurred, that he was “a little withdrawn,” and that his eyes were “very bloodshot and watery.” Holland told the Trooper he took the prescription drugs Soma and Lorcet daily and it made him sleepy. Garmon performed HGN on Holland while he was in the hospital bed and observed a total of 4 of 6 clues.

Holland filed a motion to suppress that there was no probable cause to arrest him for DUI, there was not sufficient foundation laid for the chain of custody of the blood sample, and the sufficiency of the evidence after a jury verdict. The Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient probable cause to arrest for DUI drug less safe and there was sufficient evidence to convict as a blood test showed metabolites of cocaine. However, the Court of Appeals found that there was no abuse of discretion in overruling an objection as to the chain of custody regarding the blood test even though his blood test was taken by Jessica Nation but the tube at the crime lab initially said Sandra Byrd took the blood but that was changed and the change was not initialed. Further, the blood test showed none of Holland’s prescription drugs. The Georgia Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion.  This is particularly disturbing given the documented incidents of blood sample switching due to human error and machine error at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab. (See page 5 of the PDF).

Moreover, “a chain of custody argument goes to the weight and credit a factfinder assigns to the evidence, rather than to its admissibility.” Ross v. State, 313 Ga. App. 695, 698 (1) (c) (722 SE2d 411) (2012). However, Ross misinterpreted Bush v. State, 305 Ga.App. 617, 619(3), 699 S.E.2d 899 (2010) which misinterpreted Palmer v. State, 250 Ga. 219 (1982) which said,  “Where the State seeks to introduce evidence of a fungible nature, it need only show with reasonable certainty that the evidence is the same as that seized and that there has been no tampering or substitution…The fact that one of the persons in control of a fungible substance does not testify at trial does not, without more, make the substance or testimony relating to it inadmissible.”

-Author: George Creal

Atlanta DUI Lawyers | DUI Attorney Atlanta