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US Supreme Court reviews DUI case

  • Birdsall Obear

Blood testing is an important tool for police in drunk driving cases. Motorists have certain rights when confronted with testing. But, in a Wisconsin DUI case, the U.S. Supreme Court is trying to determine whether police must seek a warrant to draw blood from an unconscious driver.

The motorist appealed a decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court that determined that drawing blood from the unconscious driver did not violate the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches and seizure. Wisconsin, like 24 other states, has a law that assumes drivers automatically consent to breath or blood tests by holding a driver's license. This implied consent exists law even if the driver is unconscious.

This case came from an arrest in Sheboygan County when the driver's neighbor called police and said that the driver drove away in a van and was apparently drunk and possibly suicidal. According to court documents, he took 40 pills, along with vodka mixed with Mountain Dew. He ultimately testified that he was depressed and suicidal.

After stopping the driver, police took him to the hospital. He became unconscious while on the way, and even though they did not have a warrant, police ordered hospital staff to draw his blood for an alcohol concentration test.

The Court heard oral argument on this appeal on April 23. In recent cases, the Court has restricted police from drawing blood without a warrant and without a driver's consent. It has also disapproved of criminal penalties against motorists who refused to give their consent for a blood draw.

Motorists stopped for drunk driving charges face serious legal issues. An attorney can help assure that their rights are protected and that they can defend against these charges.

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