A Wisconsin case regarding blood draws from suspected drunk drivers that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court has recent been ruled on. The Fourth Amendment generally mandates that officers who want to have a motorist's blood drawn must receive a warrant first.
However, the Court ruled that officers can have blood drawn from an unconscious motorist to determine if the motorist is drunk, even if the officer does not have a warrant.
The case examined a Wisconsin law stating that motorists in the state have "impliedly consented" to a blood draw if they are suspected of drunk driving. The law also states that if certain "exigent circumstances" exist, officers can order a warrantless blood draw.
Previously, the Court ruled that obtaining a warrant these days is easy and quick, given our current technology. Thus, less intrusive means of enforcing drunk driving laws should be sought when the driver is unconscious, rather than the significant bodily intrusion blood draws present that could impact a motorist's privacy rights.
However, in this recent ruling, the Court further defined when a blood draw constitutes a violation of a driver's Fourth Amendment rights. Drunk driving by an unconscious motorist is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, according to the Court. Thus, a warrantless blood draw is acceptable in such situations.
This case is essential to those accused of DWI and are formulating a drunk driving defense. Despite "implied consent" laws, those accused of this crime still have rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The question of whether a blood draw invades a person's expectation of privacy deserves attention, especially if a person is unable to consent to the blood draw, as they would be if they were unconscious. Those who find themselves facing this issue will want to make sure to seek professional guidance, so they can better understand their rights and how to develop a solid defense strategy.