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Supreme Court upholds blood draws of unconscious drivers

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that blood draws of unconscious drivers properly arrested for an intoxicated-driving offense were constitutional.

The court's ruling in State v. Mitchell leaves standing Wisconsin's implied-consent statute, which authorizes warrantless blood draws in such circumstances, according to a release from the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Mothers Against Drunk Driving filed a brief in support of the state's position and also presented oral argument.

"With drugged driving on the rise, this law is critical to law enforcement's ability to fight one of the many ways the opioid epidemic is putting our communities at risk," Attorney General Brad Schimel said. "Today's ruling is a win in the fight against the opioid epidemic and drunk driving, and DOJ is grateful for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who provided critical support in this case in briefing and in oral argument."

Wisconsin's implied consent law provides that drivers implicitly consent to tests of their blood-alcohol content (BAC) when they drive on Wisconsin roads. When a driver is arrested for drunken driving, they are given the option of submitting to the test or revoking their consent and losing their driving privileges. When a driver is unconscious, the law presumes that the driver has not revoked their consent, and officials are permitted to take a blood sample to test the driver's BAC.