In July 2017, nurse Alex Wubbels made headlines when she was unlawfully arrested while on duty at the University of Utah Hospital, a post she’d held since 2009. The former Olympian was busted after a Salt Lake City police officer demanded that she draw blood from an unconscious patient who had been in a car crash and she refused. Her reasoning for not drawing the blood was that it was a violation of hospital policy which states that the patient needs to be under arrest, or had given consent, or that the police had a warrant. The patient was the victim in the car crash, was not under arrest and the cops had no warrant. The entire ordeal was caught on the cop’s body camera.
Thankfully, Wubbels was released without charge, but fast-forward two years later and a recent Supreme Court ruling would have seen her locked away. Last Thursday, the SCOTUS ruled do not need consent or a warrant to draw your blood if you’re unconscious and they accuse you of being under the influence.
The ruling in question stems from the case of Mitchell v. Wisconsin, where Gerald Mitchell was arrested for DUI. The case reads, “Mitchell was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated after a preliminary breath test registered a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that was triple Wisconsin’s legal limit for driving. As is standard practice, the arresting officer drove Mitchell to a police station for a more reliable breath test using evidence-grade equipment. By the time Mitchell reached the station, he was too lethargic for a breath test, so the officer drove him to a nearby hospital for a blood test. Mitchell was unconscious by the time he arrived at the hospital, but his blood was drawn anyway under a state law that presumes that a person incapable of withdrawing implied consent to BAC testing has not done so.”
Mitchell felt that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated and wanted to fight to suppress his BAC. His motion was denied by the court and he was convicted. In response, Mitchell appealed the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh argued that the test without consent was covered by the Fourth Amendment’s “exigent circumstances” exception. This exception allows police to perform warrantless searches with the aim of preserving the destruction of evidence.
The decision wasn’t unanimous, but those in favor of warrantless blood tests without consent ended up prevailing. Stay woke.