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U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case that May Have a Major Impact on New York DUI Cases

Under New York DWI law, merely by driving a car a motorist is presumed to have agreed to take a chemical test when requested by a police officer who suspects that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This law, called an implied consent statute, is in effect in many states.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court heard the case Mitchell v. Wisconsin that raises a previously undecided issue regarding implied consent laws. Specifically, the case required the Court to determine whether “a statute that authorizes a blood draw from an unconscious motorist provides an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement?”

The case arose when the defendant was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Evidently, on the way to the police station, the defendant became lethargic, and the arresting officers took the defendant to the hospital. One of the officers accompanying the defendant read him a form explaining the state’s implied consent law; however, the defendant was so incapacitated that he was unable to indicate to the officers that he understood the warnings. The defendant did not either specifically consent or refuse. However, at the hospital, police officers requested that hospital workers take the defendant’s blood. It was later determined that the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was .222, which was well over the legal limit of .08.

The defendant was charged with driving under the influence. In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the blood-test evidence should be suppressed because his blood was drawn without a warrant. However, the prosecution argued that the state’s implied-consent statute allowed for warrantless blood draws. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant appealed. On his initial state court appeal, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed. In January 2019, the Court agreed to hear the case, and in April the case was argued. The Court has yet to release its opinion, which will likely come later this year.

The case raises an issue of nationwide importance, especially in the wake of the Court’s 2016 ruling which held that warrantless breath tests are constitutionally acceptable, but warrantless blood tests are not. The Court based this distinction on the fact that a blood draw results in a much greater invasion of a suspect’s privacy than a breath test. However, the composition of the Court has changed since this decision, which means that the Court may change its position on warrantless blood-draws. Regardless of how the Court decides the pending case, it will surely have a significant effect on many New York DUI cases.

Have You Been Arrested for Drunk Driving?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New York DUI, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we proudly represent those who have been charged with serious felony and misdemeanor crimes, including New York DWI crimes. To learn more about what we can do to help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule your free consultation today.