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The Supreme Court Case That Could Shake Up California DUI Law

Okabe & Haushalter Feb 28, 2019 DUI

Los Angeles DUI defense attorneys are closely watching a United States Supreme Court case that is likely to be heard and decided this year and will have a direct impact on current California law. The case is actually a Wisconsin case that the Supreme Court has decided to hear on the matter of the constitutionality of Wisconsin chemical testing practices that are comparable to California’s practices.

Current California implied consent law

Under California law, a person who drives a motor vehicle is viewed by the state as giving implied consent to a chemical test to determine whether or not the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so long as that person has been lawfully arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence. What this means is that so long as there was cause to pull a driver over and make a lawful arrest, the driver has already impliedly consented to a test by virtue of driving a car in California and if he or she then refuses a test (withdraws his or her implied consent), the driver will suffer consequences including license suspension and fines.

Unconscious or incapable of withdrawing consent

Now to the even more important part of California’s law related to the Wisconsin United States Supreme Court case, California law provides that if a person is unconscious or otherwise incapable of refusing a chemical test, then his or her consent to a test has not been withdrawn and the tests may be administered. A driver who is deceased is also viewed as not having withdrawn his or her implied consent and may be tested as well.

United States Supreme Court Case

In the Wisconsin case that has made it up to the Supreme Court, the defendant driver was pulled over on suspicion of DUI. The officer administered a pre-arrest breathalyzer that found the driver’s blood alcohol content to be .24, well over the legal limit. The officer arrested the driver and drove him to the hospital for a blood test. The defendant had passed out and could not be woken at the hospital prior to the test, thus, the defendant was not able to withdraw his implied consent. A blood test was administered anyway showing that the driver’s blood alcohol content was .22, still well over the legal limit.

The issue to be determined by the Supreme Court is whether or not administering a blood test without a warrant, on a person that is incapable of withdrawing his or her implied consent is an unreasonable search and seizure violating the 4th amendment. If the practice is found to be constitutional, California’s DUI law will be business as usual, but if it is found to be unconstitutional, DUI law is going to change in California and in other states across the country.

Los Angeles DUI defense attorneys at Okabe & Haushalter are 4th amendment experts who are dedicated to providing our criminal defense clients with high caliber representation. If you have been charged with driving under the influence or other crimes, contact one of our criminal defense attorneys today to schedule a consultation.