Blood draw of unconscious driver suspected of OWI allowed under U.S. Supreme Court decision

High court ruling on Wisconsin case
Blood draw of unconscious driver suspected of OWI allowed under U.S. Supreme Court decision
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In October 2013, a woman was arrested by police in Billings, Mont. because she called 911 to report that she was too drunk to get out of her vehicle. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.311.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on a Wisconsin decision that had required a warrant for a blood draw in a suspected drunk driving case when the driver is unconscious.

In the 5-4 decision, justices ruled that “exigent-circumstances doctrine generally permits a blood test without a warrant.”

#BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled on a WI case about whether you can draw blood from an unconscious person in a suspected OWI case– saying those blood draws are now ALLOWED. https://t.co/A9434joQHL #news3now

— Jessica Arp (@news3jessica) June 27, 2019

The case involved driver Gerald Mitchell, who in 2013 was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated after a breath test found he was three times over the legal limit for driving. Mitchell was being taken to the Sheboygan police station for a more accurate test when he became lethargic and the officer took him to the hospital. He was unable to answer to whether he consented to a blood draw, so the officer told the hospital to draw Mitchell’s blood.

More on the #SCOTUS blood draw decision out of Wisconsin: #news3now pic.twitter.com/MHU3Vzeqyw

— Jessica Arp (@news3jessica) June 27, 2019

Mitchell contested the blood test results, saying the draw violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The case went to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where the majority upheld the blood test as valid.

The majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito found Thursday that officers must administer a blood test if a breath test is not possible.

In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul praised the decision.

“This law helps protect communities from impaired drivers,” Kaul said. “We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a Wisconsin law that promotes public safety.”

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