The short answer is yes, the police and law enforcement have the legal right to withdraw blood from an unconscious driver. However, every driver has certain protections under both federal and state law. Learn more about your legal rights and how to ensure their protection.
Supreme Court Ruling
In 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 ruling, determined that drivers operating a vehicle on a public road have given implied consent to having their blood drawn if the police suspect that they are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States typically protects against such searches and seizures, however, this Supreme Court ruling specifically carved out an exception that would exist under “exigent circumstances,” allowing law enforcement to obtain blood samples without a warrant. While the court’s opinions were deeply divided, the critical point seemed to rest upon the fact that the evidence of alcohol in a driver’s blood will inherently dissipate over time, and therefore, evidence regarding possible intoxication will be permanently lost.
Public Interest and Safety
According to Justice Alito, drivers that are, “ … drunk enough to pass out at the wheel or soon afterward pose a much greater risk.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court decision rules that it is in the best interest of public safety to assess this emergency situation and obtain blood (evidence) to determine if the driver operated the motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ultimately, the decision was made to protect communities and the public from impaired drivers.
Your Legal Rights
If you pass out behind the wheel of a vehicle and are unconscious, federal law now states that law enforcement has a legal right to withdraw blood from you. Because a blood test is a much more invasive test than a breath test, a police officer must have just cause to believe that a driver that is passed out is unconscious as a result of intoxication. If you awake from consciousness only to realize that you have been arrested and a blood sample has been taken from you, your best course of action is to remain silent. You have the legal right to remain silent after an arrest, and request legal representation. Contacting an experienced attorney can help ensure that your legal rights will remain protected.
Contact an Experienced Defense Attorney
If you awaken from unconsciousness and determine that a blood sample was taken from you in an attempt to prove a DUI charge, make certain to request legal counsel as soon as possible. Contact an experienced DUI defense attorney at The Moorhead Law Group at 303-447-1400 or online today to discuss your legal options and your rights. We can help you build a strong defense and investigate the circumstances surrounding your unconsciousness to determine whether or not law enforcement had a valid reason under the law to take a blood sample with or without a warrant.