Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling on a pressing issue in DUI cases: whether the Fourth Amendment bars states from conducting a blood draw on an unconscious person suspected of drunk driving. Prior to the decision, the states were divided as to whether drawing and testing the blood of an unconscious defendant was constitutional, with close to thirty states permitting such testing. In light of the Court’s recent decision, it is anticipated that the rights of DUI suspects who have been subjected to warrantless blood draws will be diminished. If you are charged with a DUI, you should meet with a trusted DUI attorney to discuss your options for preserving your rights.
Facts of the Underlying Case
It is alleged that the defendant in the underlying case was found covered in sand and slurring his words on a beach in Wisconsin. The police suspected the defendant of driving while intoxicated and asked him to submit to a preliminary breath test. The results of the test showed the defendant’s BAC was more than three times over the legal limit. As such, the police arrested the defendant and took him to the hospital so they could conduct a legal blood draw. Prior to arriving at the hospital, however, the defendant passed out. The blood test was conducted regardless, and the results of the test showed that the defendant’s BAC was .22. The defendant was charged with and convicted of a DUI.
It is reported that the defendant appealed, arguing that the blood draw violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. In response, the State argued that Wisconsin’s implied consent law deemed anyone driving on Wisconsin roads to consent to a blood draw, and the defendant had not withdrawn his consent. The case ultimately proceeded to the United States Supreme Court, on the issue of whether states are permitted to statutorily state that drivers impliedly consent to blood alcohol tests. In issuing its ruling, however, the Court did not answer the precise question with which it was presented. Rather, the court merely stated that when a driver is unconscious and exigent-circumstances are present, the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution does not generally bar States from conducting a blood draw without a warrant.