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Wrongful DUI arrest included bungled blood draw, lawsuit claims

Published: Wednesday, May 1 2013 5:52 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A South Jordan woman claims a Utah Highway Patrol trooper wrongfully arrested her for drunken driving and bungled the drawing of her blood.

Amanda Madsen filed a lawsuit in federal court this week alleging trooper Nick Swallow detained her without probable cause and falsely obtained a warrant to extract her blood after stopping her for an alleged traffic violation last June.

The blood draw caused "bodily degradation and pain, humiliation, and deprived" Madsen of her Fourth and 14th Amendment rights, according to the suit.

Among its several claims, the complaint raises the issue of troopers drawing the blood of suspected drunken drivers, describing it as "offensive contact."

UHP Sgt. Brian Spillman said it's a common practice that saves money and time, and troopers who want to draw blood attend a state-certified training course.

"They go through the same phlebotomy program that any nurse or emergency responder would have to go through in order to draw blood," he said.

Swallow pulled Madsen over for allegedly crossing the double white lines in the carpool lane as she entered I-15 near 600 South in Salt Lake City around 11:30 p.m. on June 18. When the trooper asked if she had been drinking, Madsen admitted to sharing a bottle of wine with friends at a restaurant about four hours earlier.

The trooper had Madsen perform three different field sobriety tests, which according to the lawsuit she did without difficulty. He then had her breathe into breathalyzer and told her it indicated that she was above the legal blood-alcohol limit.

After arresting her, Swallow asked Madsen if she was willing to have her blood drawn, according to the lawsuit. When she refused, he obtained an electronic warrant.

"On his first attempt at drawing Ms. Madsen’s blood, trooper Swallow missed the vein. On his second attempt at drawing Ms. Madsen’s blood, trooper Swallow inserted the needle so deep into the vein that it caused extreme pain," according to the complaint.

The lawsuit contends Swallow was not competent to perform the procedure.

Results of the blood test revealed a 0.07 blood-alcohol level, just below the Utah legal limit of 0.08. Murray city prosecutors dismissed the DUI charge against Madsen, but her driver's license remains suspended, the lawsuit says.

Madsen's attorney, Justin Heideman, did not respond to a request for comment.

UHP declined to comment about the complaint. But Spillman said troopers drawing blood has been standard practice for years.

The highway patrol previously contracted the procedure out to a third party but found it expensive and time-consuming to sometimes wait more than an hour for a phlebotomist to arrive on a scene, he said.

"It expedites the process and maintains the cost," Spillman said.

In situations where suspected drunken drivers are verbally abusive or combative, troopers might seek help in drawing blood.

"There are times when other troopers would be called to help control their arm so it's not as dangerous as it could be. Some troopers who are phlebotomists, if they feel there like there is a personal issue between the trooper and the defendant, they'll have someone else draw it," Spillman said.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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