Police officers do not need a warrant to draw blood from unconscious drivers, according to the US Supreme Court (via Autoblog).
This is no new development, the ruling was also meant to serve as a reminder following the hearing of a drunken driving case in Wisconsin this week.
The court ruled 5-4 that it is no violation of the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches if blood is drawn by law enforcement in the case of a driver being unconscious. And no warrant is required either.
Another terrible 5-4 decision from current (& illegitimate) US Supreme Court:— Marc Krupanski (@PolicingWatch) June 28, 2019
Police may, without a warrant, order blood drawn from an unconscious person suspected of DUI. Court says that when you drive on public roads you supposedly consent implicitly!https://t.co/HLzZ2EWDSL
Conservative Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas all agreed with the ruling, with liberal Justice Stephen Breyer concurring as well.
This stems from a case involving an individual named Gerald Mitchell. While most of the warrantless drunk-driving blood tests were upheld, Mitchell's case was put aside because he claimed that he was not conscious while his blood was being taken.
The case was knocked back to the lower courts to provide Mitchell with an opportunity to prove that the officer's needs were not pressing enough to have them go ahead and draw his blood without obtaining a warrant.
The ruling, though, was made on the Wisconsin law that assumes motorists automatically consent to have their breath tested and blood drawn as long as the drive on state roads, whether they are conscious or not.
"Thus, when a driver is unconscious, the general rule is that a warrant is not needed," conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the decision. He also noted that all the other 49 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.
In more recent times, the Supreme Court has limited police when it comes to drawing blood without a warrant or the consent of the motorist and hasn't been keen on criminal penalties against persons who do not give their consent to having their blood taken.
In Mitchell's case, which dates back to 2013, he had taken around 40 pills and vodka mixed with Mountain Dew. A neighbor rang the police to report that he was driving a van and was likely drunk and was a suicide risk. He later testified that he was indeed feeling depressed and suicidal.
Mitchell lost consciousness while the cops took him to the hospital, where they ordered staff to draw his blood for testing upon arrival. He was later charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, having already been charged six times for the same offense before.
He appealed a ruling by Wisconsin's highest court stating that the blood draw did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights, when really, he should have been thanking the officers for probably saving his life as he would have likely crashed the van had he lost consciousness at the wheel.
Then again, he wasn't exactly trying to stay alive that day.