Supreme Court Rules Police Can Withdraw Blood on Unconscious Drunk Drivers
Last week, a divided Supreme Court ruled police can generally draw blood, without a warrant, from unconscious persons suspected of driving drunk or being intoxicated on other drugs.
Generally, the Fourth Amendment requires police to first obtain a warrant before drawing blood from a suspect. But in a 5-4 vote on June 27, the court upheld a Wisconsin state law stating people driving on public roadways have given implied consent to having their blood drawn if police have suspicion they are driving while intoxicated.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito and Carence Thomas joined Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority vote, according to NPR.
Their decision conflicts previous rulings in which supreme court justices ruled blood draws are a significant intrusion into a person's privacy and body. The rulings also reasoned there are less intrusive methods of enforcing drunk driving laws against unconscious drivers, like obtaining a warrant.
The recent case arose from an incident involving Gerald Mitchell, who drove to the shore of Lake Michigan, after drinking vodka and taking about 40 pills in 2013.
After a neighbor, who feared Mitchell had driven away in his van, called police, officers arrived to find Mitchell wobbling on his feet and acting belligerent.
After placing him inside a holding cell, police transported him to a hospital where they ordered medical personnel to draw his blood, which showed a blood alcohol level of .22, almost three times above Wisconsin's legal limit of .08.
After being charged with driving while intoxicated, Mitchell argued the blood draws violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures since officers did not obtain a warrant and he was incapable of consenting to the blood test.
Wisconsin's state courts ruled against Mitchell.
The Supreme Court decision to uphold those ruling comes almost two years after a national story broke about a Utah cop captured on video violently arresting nurse Alex Wubbels for refusing police to perform a blood draw on her unconscious patient.
Salt Lake City later agreed to pay Wubbels a $500,000 settlement two weeks after detective Jeff Payne filed paper work appealing his firing over the incident.