Nurse fined for drink-driving

By Imran Ali -

A Whangarei nurse who unsuccessfully challenged a drink driving charge has been convicted and ordered to pay a fine.

Karen O'Keeffe was fined $650 and disqualified from driving for seven months and two weeks when she appeared for sentencing in the Whangarei District Court this week.

O'Keeffe was ordered to pay court cost of $130, analysts' fee of $109 and $100 in medical fees.

At a judge-alone trial in May, Judge Duncan Harvey rejected her argument that taking a blood sample from her foot to assess the level of alcohol in her blood was unlawful and breached her Bill of Rights.

O'Keeffe was stopped while driving a Mercedes along Mangakahia Rd about 10pm on November 28, 2014.

She was taken to the Whangarei Police Station where a nurse was called to obtain a blood sample.

The nurse opted to take a sample from O'Keeffe's foot because she found it difficult to obtain one from her arm and wrist.

O'Keeffe did not object to the taking of blood from her foot at the time but did so in court, saying the nurse bypassed her wrist and the back of her arm, which was unlawful and in breach of her Bill of Rights.

The normal procedure was for a medical practitioner to be present if a blood sample was to be taken from any area other than her wrist and arm, she said. Judge Harvey ruled although the way the experienced nurse approached her task was not best practice, it did not mean medical procedures were not complied with.

She returned a reading of 104 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - twice the legal blood limit of 50 milligrams for drivers aged 20 and over.

The court also rejected her argument that police should have waited for a medical practitioner before a blood sample was taken.

Her nursing registration is valid until December 31. Her employer the Northland District Health Board and the Nursing Council of New Zealand declined to comment.

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