Texas Woman Arrested For DWI During Multiple Sclerosis Episode

Last month, a woman just outside of Houston in Rosenberg, Texas was arrested for a DWI during a multiple sclerosis episode. While driving her daughter to get food, Christie Lietzau began to have an MS flare, thus prompting her daughter to call 911 for help. Although the police were told that the mother was having an episode, police deemed her impaired and arrested her on suspicion of DWI. The Rosenberg Police Department then drew blood from her, saying that the results would arrive in a few weeks. Thereafter, she spent three days in jail and now faces felony charges.

What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable immune-mediated disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the central nervous system. The result is that the brain cannot send signals through the body properly, causing a wide range of symptoms including trouble walking, muscle weakness, spasms, blurred vision, problems focusing, poor bladder control, and numbness. Today, the cause of MS is still unknown, and an MS flare or attack cannot be prevented entirely even while on medication. Based on the symptoms above, it is reasonable to assume that an MS flare could resemble the actions of a drunk driver depending on the severity of the attack.

How Long Does a Blood Test take?

The length of time it takes to get the results of a blood test can vary based on the time and resources available to the county in which you were arrested. However, the general consensus seems to be between 4 and 6 weeks to get a result back. The arrest above occurred almost a month ago which fits within the time frame for results to be returned. That being said, if many months pass after an arrest without a test result, it could mean that the results were either negative or inconclusive and the case is being dropped.

When are Blood Tests ADMINISTERED in Texas?

In the state of Texas, if you are pulled over and arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, implied consent laws dictate that you submit to either a breath or blood test to determine your BAC levels. In fact, by simply signing for a driver’s license in Texas, the fine print states that drivers tacitly agree to a sobriety test as part of the state extending driving privileges to them. If you are arrested and still refuse, your license will be suspended for at least 180 days with the option to have a hearing within the first 15 days to challenge the suspension. There is also something in Texas known as a “no refusal weekend” which occurs on certain holidays and allows police to draw blood from DWI suspects even without their consent or a warrant. The legality of these no refusal weekends have been the topic of much debate throughout the state.

Is a Blood Test 100% Accurate?

Even though blood tests are considered to be one of the more reliable methods of BAC testing, it may not be accurate for a number of reasons:

  • Delays in Analysis – If a sample sits too long, it may coagulate, ferment, or begin to decompose which can lead to a false reading.
  • Improper Collection or Storage – If the blood is drawn improperly by someone at the scene or the sample is not properly preserved and gets too warm, it can lead to a reading error.
  • Errors in Testing – The laboratories that run these tests are often underfunded and run numerous different samples each day. Any recording error or contamination during this process can lead to a false result.

For all of the damage caused by drunk drivers that we normally hear on the news, such as the man in Houston recently sentenced to life in after his ninth drunk driving offense, this case is especially concerning because of the ignorance on behalf of the police officers. Assuming that the test results come back negative except for her prescription medication, the 911 response for an MS flare should not be three days in prison and potential felony charges.  Hopefully with the release of the test results she and her family will receive some closure, but it is concerning knowing that someone could be wrongfully accused of a crime when all they needed was medical attention.

This will be updated as the story develops.

Header image via wikimedia commons.

Rob Tindula

When he's not playing beach volleyball, Rob serves as a general news reporter for Dopplr. He typically covers news related to crime, drug policy, and education.

One comment

  • There was a lawsuit filed recently in Bend, Oregon where elderly citizens were being pulled over for DWI and DUI based on their age. It has caused a large issue in Central Oregon.

    It appears that they even administer Urine Testing on females without a female observer. Terrible abuse of authority and overstep by male officers.

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