Supreme Court Approves Warrantless Blood Withdrawals from Unconscious Drivers

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The Supreme Court ruled on June 27, 2019 that police can draw blood from unconscious drunk driving suspects.

The Mitchell v. Wisconsin case comes three years after the Court decided that police generally must obtain a warrant if a driver does not voluntarily consent to a blood test.

According to Scott Shackford of Reason, “the Court’s judgment actually dodged the major question presented by the case: Whether a state can force a citizen to consent in advance to unwarranted blood tests as a condition of driving.”

This ruling dealt with the case of a man named Gerald Mitchell, who was arrested on the suspicion of engaging in drunken driving. When he was brought to the hospital for a blood test, he was unconscious, and therefore could not consent to a blood test. It should be noted that Wisconsin has an “implied consent” law that allows police to draw blood from unconscious drivers if the officers have probable cause to suspect that drivers are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

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The majority decision, which was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and had Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh joining Alito in his judgement, sustained that drawing blood in these circumstances falls under the umbrella of the “exigent circumstances” exception to the Fourth Amendment which gives police the authority to conduct warrantless searches in order to prevent the destruction of evidence.

The Reason Foundation submitted an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to rule that Wisconsin cannot surrender their constitutional rights in this fashion.

This is just another case showing that state governments commit plenty of civil liberties abuses, and liberty conservatives must remain vigilant in defending their rights.

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