In April 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case that may call into question the constitutionality of a significant part of Arizona’s implied consent statute. The specific question posed by the case is whether a law that allows a blood test from an unconscious driver provides an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
Arizona’s implied consent statute provides that “a person who operates a motor vehicle in this state gives consent … to a test or tests of the person’s blood, breath, urine or other bodily substance.” The statute also states that “a person who is dead, unconscious or otherwise in a condition rendering the person incapable of refusal is deemed not to have withdrawn the consent … and the test or tests may be administered.”
The area of implied consent has always been controversial, but especially since 2013, when the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case Missouri v. McNeely. In that case, the court held that the dissipation of alcohol in a DUI suspect’s blood is not an “exigent circumstance” that allows for a warrantless blood draw. Since then, the Court decided another landmark case, Birchfield v. North Dakota, in which the court held that warrantless breath tests are constitutionally permissible, but that blood draws require a warrant.
In the most recent case, the defendant was arrested for driving under the influence. While police officers were transporting the defendant to the police station, they noticed that the defendant was lethargic and decided to take him to the hospital. While the defendant was at the hospital, police officers asked hospital personnel to draw the defendant’s blood. The results indicated that the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit and he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress the test results, arguing that the blood draw was impermissible because it was a warrantless search, which is prohibited under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The prosecution claimed that the implied consent law clearly contemplated warrantless blood draws in the event a motorist was too intoxicated to provide consent. The trial court rejected the defendant’s argument, as did the state appellate courts. In January 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, agreeing to hear oral argument and decide the case, and last month the case was argued before the Court.
An opinion in the case is expected in the next month. However, it is possible that the court would wait until the next session to issue an opinion. Regardless, the Court’s opinion will have a major effect on DUI cases across the country.
Have You Been Charged with an Arizona DUI?
If you have been charged with an Arizona DUI, contact attorney James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a dedicated and experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience handling a wide range of Arizona DUI cases. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you with your situation, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.