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How Supreme Court ruled in WI drunken driving case

Posted at 9:22 PM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-07 13:04:30-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The issue of drunken driving in Wisconsin recently went all the way to the nation's highest court.

The United State's Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement may take an unconscious driver's blood without a warrant if the person is suspected of driving drunk.

It was a 5-4 ruling with a variety of opinions.

Justices Alito wrote the court's majority opinion. He was joined by Justice Breyer, Justice Kavanaugh, and Chief Justice Roberts.

Justice Alito wrote in his opinion, "When police have probably cause to believe a person has committed a drunk-driving offense and the driver's unconsciousness or stupor requires him to be taken to the hospital or similar facility before police have a reasonable opportunity to administer a standard evidentiary breath test, they may almost always order a warrantless blood test to measure the driver's BAC without offending the Fourth Amendment."

Justice Thomas wrote a concurring opinion. He wrote, "The Court has consistently held that police officers may perform searches without a warrant when destruction of evidence is at risk. The rule should be no different in drunk-driving cases."

Justice Sotomayor, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Kagan dissented from the majority opinion. Justice Sotomayor wrote, "The plurality's decision rests on the false premise that today's holding is necessary to spare law enforcement from a choice between attending to emergency situations and securing evidence used to enforce state drunk-driving laws. Not so."

Justice Sotomayor went on to write, "The Fourth Amendment, as interpreted by our precedents, requires police officers seeking to draw blood from a person suspected of drunk driving to get a warrant if possible. That rule should resolve this case."

Justice Gorsuch also dissented. He said the court's decision to cite exigent circumstances in the case didn't answer the question that was presented.