Last year, the US Supreme Court handed down a case that dealt with DUIs and warrantless blood searches, Mitchell v. Wisconsin. In short, Mitchell "held the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement 'almost always' justifies the warrantless drawing of blood from unconscious DUI suspects."
Also click here for a post on the Fourth Amendment and burden of proof.
South Carolina v. Key
The SC Supreme Court handed down a case this week, State v. Key, that dealt with the same facts as Mitchell: a warrantless blood search of an unconscious DUI suspect. In this case, the SC Supreme Court first explained what SCOTUS held in Mitchell:
SCOTUS held that law enforcement was justified in conducting a warrantless search of the unconscious driver, but they remanded the case back to the trial court so that the defendant could attempt to make a showing that a warrant should have been required:
And this is where the SC Supreme Court differed with SCOTUS. The SC Supreme Court held that this shifted the burden from the State to the defendant. And when it comes to warrantless searches, the State always bears the burden to show why they did not get a warrant. (Click here for a post on the Fourth Amendment and Burden). The SC Supreme Court emphasized that when it comes to warrantless searches, the State always bears the burden of proof:
The case was remanded back to the trial court for the State to prove that exigent circumstances existed and that a warrant was not required.