Unconscious WI Driver DUI Case Taken Up by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide a case challenging a Wisconsin law, mirrored in dozens of other states, that allows a police officer to draw blood from an unconscious driver if they suspect the motorist is drunk.

Police stopped Gerald Mitchell on a beach in Sheboygan County in May 2013 after receiving reports that he was driving his gray van while intoxicated. After a breath test revealed that Mitchell had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24, three times the legal limit, police officer Alex Jaeger arrested Mitchell and drove him to a hospital for a blood draw.

Though Jaeger gave Mitchell the opportunity to withdraw his consent to the procedure, Mitchell had fallen unconscious at the hospital and attempts at rousing him proved unavailing.

Mitchell appealed his DWI conviction by accusing the state of having conducted a search barred by the Fourth Amendment. Prosecutors countered that the officer had probable cause to direct staff to draw blood because he had witnessed Mitchell in a severely drunken state.