One of the main differences in Massachusetts drunk driving laws over other states is that drivers can currently refuse a breath test. However, what happens if drivers are asleep when the police conduct their search? Or, if they fall asleep while in police custody and after admitting to drunk driving? Can officers draw blood and test it for alcohol? Does that fall under implicit consent or is this unconstitutional?
According to CNBC, this was the dilemma brought before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. The case involved a Wisconsin driver who reportedly admitted to operating his vehicle under the influence. Realizing he was unfit to drive, he allegedly parked and exited his car. He then went down to the lake to sleep.
Police had responded to a tip-off of a drunk driver when they found him there. Court documents alleged that the police then drove him to the hospital. He fell asleep during the drive. He also remained asleep while police officers attempted to read the consent form and he did not respond to attempts to wake him. Police officers reportedly still directed hospital staff to draw blood. This was provided as evidence against him in court.
In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police officers can, in fact, draw blood from unconscious drivers suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence. They may also do so without a warrant. Critics of the decision believe it is unconstitutional, because the Fourth Amendment requires police officers to obtain a warrant for blood draws. The ruling also conflicts with previous court decisions on the matter.
Those who support the ruling see it as another step toward protecting communities from drunk drivers. Even so, some members of the general public wonder whether or not police could have been more lenient as the driver had parked and exited the vehicle once he recognized that he was unfit to drive.