Supreme Court Confused By The Case of an Unconscious Drunk Driver

Unconscious Drunk DriverUpdated: April 23, 2019 / 4:24 PM

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court justices debated over whether or not police should need a court-issued warrant to legally draw an unconscious suspect’s blood, a case which brought attention to a man found drunk driving in the state of Wisconsin and had his blood obtained without his consent.

All nine justices appeared divided over the case as they heard an hour of arguments in an appeal by Gerald Mitchell, the man involved in the incident, regarding state court rulings that endorse the ability to allow police to test drawn blood from an unconscious person.

Mitchell appealed a ruling by Wisconsin’s highest court that the blood draw did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment which protects against unreasonable searches. After finding Mitchell shirtless near the shores of Lake Michigan, the blood police drew proved his blood-alcohol concentration was above the state’s legal limit.

A Wisconsin law assumes motorists automatically give consent to tests of their breath or blood by merely driving on the state’s roads, even if they are deemed unconscious. Of the 50 U.S. states, more than half have similar laws to this.

In the recent years, the Supreme Court has limited police to draw blood without a warrant and a motorist’s consent, while frowning upon criminal penalties against people who refuse to consent to a blood draw.