The S.C. Supreme Court recently handed down a case on DUI and exigent circumstances. The basic facts: a defendant crossed the yellow line and struck another vehicle head on resulting in great bodily injury. The defendant was taken to the hospital and was conscious the whole time. The trooper stated that he found a beer can in the defendant's car and that his eyes were blood shot and glassy. At the hospital, the trooper charged the defendant with felony DUI (56-5-2945).
If someone is charged with felony DUI then they are required to submit to blood/chemical testing for alcohol or drugs (56-5-2946).
Because this was a warrantless search, there are several issues that came up in this case:
Did the defendant give consent to search?
If no consent, then were there exigent circumstances so that a warrant was not required?
If there were not exigent circumstances, then can the State rely on 2946 which requires a person to submit to a warrantless search if they are charged with felony DUI?
The court held #2 that there were exigent circumstances so that a warrant was not required. In holding this, the court analyzed several U.S. Supreme Court cases to compare to these facts.
Supreme Court Cases on DUI
The court cites to 4 cases from the U.S. Supreme Court on DUIs:
Missouri v. McNeely (blood testing depends on totality of circumstances)
Birchfield v. North Dakota (breath test, not blood test, is ok for search incident to arrest)
Mitchell v. Wisconsin (unconscious defendant qualifies as exigent circumstance to get blood test)
Schmerber v. California (blood testing depends on totality of circumstances)
Because this specific case dealt with exigent circumstances, the court looked to McNeely and Schmerber for comparison:
Is 56-5-2946 Constitutional?
The court left for another day the issue about whether or not 2946 is constitutional: