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California DUI Law Update: U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case on Legality of Blood Draw from Unconscious Motorist


The issue of warrantless blood-draws has been the focus of several high-profile Supreme Court opinions over the past few years. The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in another DUI case involving the warrantless blood-draw of an unconscious motorist. The issue before the Court in Mitchell v. Wisconsin was whether a statute that authorizes a blood-draw from an unconscious motorist is lawful under the Fourth Amendment. Whatever the Supreme Court decides will likely have a decisive impact on California’s implied-consent law and implied-consent laws across the United States.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was arrested in May 2013 for driving while intoxicated. Police took him to the hospital, but the defendant became unconscious before he could provide consent to draw his blood. The hospital workers drew the defendant’s blood at the request of the police and without a warrant. The defendant’s blood-alcohol concentration was .222, and he was subsequently charged with driving while intoxicated.

The defendant argued that the blood test was not admissible in court because his blood was taken without a warrant. The prosecution argued that the police did not need a warrant to draw his blood under the state’s implied-consent statute. Under that state’s statute, by virtue of driving a vehicle, motorists provide consent to undergo blood, urine, and breath tests to determine the motorist’s alcohol or drug content. The state’s supreme court upheld the search as lawful, ruling in the state’s favor 5-2. However, there was no consensus on the reasoning as to why it was lawful. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision is still pending, and is expected later this year.

Under Division 11.5 Section 23612 (a)(1)(A) of the California Vehicle Code, any person “who drives a motor vehicle” is deemed to have given consent to a blood draw or breath test in order to determine the motorist’s blood alcohol content if the person is arrested under sections 23140, 23152, or 23153. A motorist is also deemed to have consented to a urine test to determine the motorist’s drug content if a blood test is unavailable, or if blood and breath tests are not available. In order for the testing to be lawful, the law enforcement officer must have “reasonable cause” to believe the motorist was in violation of the above-mentioned sections. A motorist also has a choice of whether to undergo a blood or breath test, and must be advised of that choice.

Have You Been Arrested for DUI?

If you have been arrested for a California DUI, contact a dedicated criminal defense attorney for immediate assistance. You may be able to challenge the admissibility of the tests conducted or the lawfulness of your arrest. With such potentially serious consequences on the line, do not take any risks. Seek out an experienced, skilled criminal defense lawyer who can evaluate your case and advise you on how to proceed. Attorney John W. Noonan has been practicing criminal law for over 55 years, and has a successful track record of success handling all types of California DUI cases. Call us today at (925) 886-4281 or complete our online form to set up a time to discuss your case.