In May 2013, a police officer in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, stopped a man because of reports he was driving drunk. The officer found the man walking near a beach after having parked his car because he told the officer he felt he was “too drunk to drive.” Gerald Mitchell was given a roadside breath test, which showed his blood-alcohol level at 0.24, which is three times the legal limit in Wisconsin.
Mitchell was arrested and the officer drove him to a hospital for a blood test. At the hospital, Mitchell passed out and could not be roused, so the police officer ordered the blood draw. The test results showed Mitchell's blood-alcohol level at 0.22. Mitchell was later convicted of his seventh DWI, which he appealed.
All 50 states have some sort of implied consent law, meaning that when drivers get behind the wheel of a car, they must agree to a blood test if they are stopped for suspected DWI. Wisconsin, along with 28 other states, takes the implied consent law a bit further and allows for unconscious suspects to have their blood drawn. Mitchell's lawyers argued that his blood draw was unconstitutional as the blood results were taken illegally and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The case has moved through the court system, and in July 2018 the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with the lower court, saying the police officer did not need a warrant to draw Mitchell's blood. Now this case, Mitchell vs. Wisconsin, will be heard by U.S. Supreme Court later this month. This is the third DWI/DUI case to appear in front of the Supreme Court in the last several years.
Fourth Amendment and Washington DUI
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Proponents of the Fourth Amendment claim that it was designed to protect citizens from arbitrary government involvement and that if Mitchell vs. Wisconsin loses its Supreme Court bid, government overreach wins.
After another high-profile DUI case that went to the Supreme Court, Missouri v. McNeely, Washington state amended its implied consent law to remove reference to mandatory blood draws and ruled that officers cannot take a blood draw if the person is unconscious and cannot give consent unless (1) there is a warrant, or (2) there is some kind of exigent circumstance/emergency.
Experienced DUI Representation in Washington
Attorney Steve Karimi provides proven and effective legal representation for clients across Washington. He has many years defending against DUI cases. Having a skilled and seasoned attorney defend your DUI charges is critical. If you think that your DUI arrest involved an unwarranted blood draw, contact his office today for a consultation at 206-621-8777.
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