Florida Supreme Court hears argument in blood-alcohol battle

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in a legal battle about whether the state has adequate rules for testing blood-alcohol levels in suspected drunken-driving cases.

Attorneys for Palm Beach County millionaire John Goodman, who was convicted of DUI manslaughter in a fatal 2010 crash, are challenging Florida Department of Law Enforcement rules.

The tests are based in what is known as a state “implied consent” law. Under that law, people effectively agree to be subject to blood- or breath-alcohol tests when they receive driver's licenses.

Jane Kreusler-Walsh, an attorney for Goodman, said Wednesday that the state doesn't have adequate safeguards to prevent drawn blood from clotting --- potentially resulting in artificially high measurements of blood-alcohol levels --- and doesn't require proper screening of samples.

“The FDLE's blood collection and blood-alcohol rules are both inadequate and inconsistent with the core policies of the implied consent law,” Kreusler-Walsh said.

But state Deputy Solicitor General Rachel Nordby urged the Supreme Court to uphold a ruling last year by the 4th District Court of Appeal that rejected Goodman's arguments.

“The department's rules sufficiently regulate both blood collection and blood-alcohol testing, in a manner that insures the reliability and accuracy of the test results for purposes of Florida's implied consent law,” Nordby said.

Goodman was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in the 2010 traffic death of Scott Patrick Wilson, a recent University of Central Florida engineering graduate. He sought during his trial to exclude blood-alcohol test results because of alleged problems with the testing rules.

The Supreme Court typically takes months to issue opinions in cases after oral arguments.