Under Pennsylvania’s implied consent law, you agree with your driver’s license application to submit to a blood test when arrested for driving under the influence. You do, however, have the right to refuse, but you may stand to lose your driver’s license for at least one year. If a law enforcement official finds you unconscious behind the wheel of a car, he or she may request a blood test if there is reasonable cause to determine impairment.
As noted by PennLive, a medical professional may perform an officer’s requested blood test on an unconscious individual, but only with a search warrant. To obtain a warrant, a law enforcement official must first prove that an individual shows reasonable signs of impairment.
Conscious versus unconscious signs of impairment
The characteristics of a conscious driver’s impairment are different from those of an unconscious individual. A conscious motorist may demonstrate slurred speech or bloodshot eyes. An officer attempting to determine impairment of an unconscious individual, however, may need to look for signs such as a strong odor of alcohol, open liquor bottles or drug paraphernalia.
If an officer decides not to obtain a search warrant, it is not possible to determine an unconscious individual’s state or cause of impairment. Law enforcement may not file a DUI charge without proof that a driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s view
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled it is unconstitutional to draw blood without a warrant because an individual has the right to refuse to submit to a test, regardless of the consequences. Refusing a roadside breathalyzer test, however, may result in an immediate arrest and a suspension of your driver’s license. To reinstate your driver’s license, you may need to agree to install an ignition interlock device.