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Drunk driving: Rules for DUI tests in California

A viral video in the news has brought the subject of field sobriety tests to forefront of some people's minds. A police officer clashed with a hospital nurse, demanding to test the blood of an unconscious patient who was neither under arrest or the subject of a warrant. The nurse held her ground, repeating hospital policy, and the incident ended when the police officer forcefully arrested her. So, what are the rules for tests in California when a person is suspected of drunk driving? 

In California, the law for drug testing relies on implied consent. If a person holds a California driver's license, then they agreed in writing to consent to a blood, breath, or urine test if the individual is under lawful arrest for a DUI. Even if the person is unconscious or dead, the consent has been agreed to previously, and the consent is implied. 

The state law clashed with recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, however. The Supreme Court ruled in a recent case that a warrantless blood draw is in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. If the unconscious person in the viral video did end up having blood taken, he could have argued that the police officer violated his Fourth Amendment rights since he was considered a victim in the crash and was not facing charges. 

The apparent conflict between California state law and the Supreme Court in this matter may confuse some people. However, when it comes to the U.S. Constitution, the nation's highest court has the final say. As such, state laws must be in accordance with the court's rulings. A person who is facing drunk driving charges, and was forced to submit to a warrantless blood draw, may wish to consult an attorney for guidance on blood test issues. 

Source:, "What are your California rights when police request a blood test?", Alexa Renee, Sept. 1, 2017

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