SCOTUS Case Preview: The Rights of An Unconscious Motorist

April 12, 2019 by Dan McCue

This is one of five noteworthy Supreme Court cases that will be heard between April 16 and April 23. You can read the other previews here:

Also on April 23, the justices will consider whether a state statute authorizing a blood draw from an unconscious motorist provides an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.

The underlying facts of the case are these: In May 2013, Gerald Mitchell, a resident of Wisconsin, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

While en route to the police station, the arresting officer noticed Mitchell had become lethargic and drove him to a nearby hospital instead.

The officer read Mitchell a statutorily mandated form regarding the state implied consent law, but by then the driver was too incapacitated to indicate his understanding or consent and then fell unconscious.

Without a warrant, at the request of the police, hospital workers drew Mitchell’s blood, which revealed his blood alcohol concentration to be .22.

It was Mitchell’s seventh offense for driving under the influence. During his trial, Mitchell moved to suppress the results of the blood test on the ground that his blood was taken without a warrant and in the absence of any exceptions to the warrant requirement.

Prosecutors argued that under the implied-consent statute, police did not need a warrant to draw his blood.

Wisconsin, like 28 other states, has an implied consent law that says that by driving a vehicle, motorists consent to submit to chemical tests of breath, blood, or urine to determine alcohol or drug content.

The trial court sided with the prosecution and allowed the results of the blood test into evidence. Mitchell was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison.

Mitchell appealed and the case was ultimately sent to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin with respect to the issue of whether the warrantless blood draw of an unconscious motorist pursuant to Wisconsin’s implied consent law violates the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. A search and seizure is considered unreasonable if it is conducted by police without a valid search warrant, and does not fall under an exception to the warrant requirement.

A divided Supreme Court of Wisconsin upheld the search, but left unresolved questions about its constitutionality.

The case is  18-6210 Mitchell v. Wisconsin.

Supreme Court

Majority of Voters Support A Woman’s Right to Choose, National Poll Finds Civil Rights
Majority of Voters Support A Woman’s Right to Choose, National Poll Finds
May 22, 2019
by Dan McCue

A majority of American voters believe the U.S. Supreme Court was right in 1973 when it ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have a constitutionally-protected right to have an abortion, and most also believe the current generation of justices will uphold that ruling. Those are... Read More

George Washington to Citizens United: A History of Campaign Finance Reform Campaign Finance
George Washington to Citizens United: A History of Campaign Finance Reform
May 21, 2019
by Dan McCue

From the very beginning of the Republic, campaign finance has been a hard subject to discuss in polite company. In a capitalist society, things, including access to whatever serves as the public megaphone of the era, simply cost money. And in a Democracy where almost everyone,... Read More

Roberts Holds Key to Whether Recent Anti-Abortion Laws Lead to Roe Review Supreme Court
Roberts Holds Key to Whether Recent Anti-Abortion Laws Lead to Roe Review
May 17, 2019
by Dan McCue

For several weeks, a growing number of states in the Midwest and South have passed laws sharply limiting women's access to abortions in a heavy-handed bid to force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. To Chief Justice John Roberts... Read More

Ohio, Michigan Ask Supreme Court to Block Redistricting Orders Supreme Court
Ohio, Michigan Ask Supreme Court to Block Redistricting Orders
May 13, 2019
by Dan McCue

The attorneys for both Ohio and Michigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to intervene and block lower court orders to rectify partisan gerrymanders. In Ohio, a three-judge panel ruled that the state's congressional district map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to perpetuate Republican power and disadvantage... Read More

iPhone Users Can Sue Apple Over App Store Prices, Justices Rule Supreme Court
iPhone Users Can Sue Apple Over App Store Prices, Justices Rule
May 13, 2019
by Dan McCue

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday held that iPhone users can proceed with a class-action against Apple over what the plaintiff's claim is the company's monopoly over app sales. While the decision is potentially a landmark ruling for consumers seeking to bring anti-trust cases against corporations,... Read More

Supreme Court Overturns 40-Year Precedent in Two-State Dispute Supreme Court
Supreme Court Overturns 40-Year Precedent in Two-State Dispute
May 13, 2019
by Dan McCue

A divided U.S. Supreme Court Monday overturned a 40-year precedent, ruling one state cannot be sued in the courts of another without its consent. The decision ends a long-running tax dispute between California officials and a Nevada inventor named Gilbert Hyatt. Hyatt, a former California resident,... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top