Published on: Thursday, June 27, 2019

Today, in Mitchell v. Wisconsin, No. 18-6210 (June 27, 2019), the United States Supreme Court held:

When police have probable cause to believe a person has committed a drunk-driving offense and the driver’s unconsciousness or stupor requires him to be taken to the hospital or similar facility before police have a reasonable opportunity to administer a standard evidentiary breath test, they may almost always order a warrantless blood test to measure the driver’s BAC without offending the Fourth Amendment.  We do not rule out the possibility that in an unusual case a defendant would be able to show that his blood would not have been drawn if police had not been seeking BAC information, and that police could not have reasonably judged that a warrant application would interfere with other pressing needs or duties.

Justice Alito delivered the Court’s 5 to 4 opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh.  Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.  Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, and Gorsuch.

The opinion of the Wisconsin Supreme Court below is available here.  Merits briefing is available on the U.S. Supreme Court’s website, here.

The Training Division provides resource materials on Search & Seizure–Generally; Search & Seizure–Automobile Searches; and Search & Seizure– Wiretaps and Electronic Surveillance