Utah: Implied Consent Doesn’t Apply When You’re Unconscious.

Utah drunk driving What happens if you crash your vehicle, are taken to the hospital unconscious, and police suspect you of drunk driving? You know hospital personnel will take care of you when you’re awake and able to talk, and they’re also responsible for your care when you’re unconscious.

But a lot can happen when you’re not able to answer for yourself after a crash, and one Utah drunk driving case has cast a spotlight on the specific drunk driving laws that may come into play in situations like these.

By now everyone has seen the video of nurse Alex Wubbels refusing to allow blood to be drawn from her unconscious patient after a car crash. The police officer requesting the blood draw arrested her for refusing, and the video was uploaded online and went viral shortly after.

The dust has since settled on the case and the police officer responsible has been fired, but if you’re wondering why Wubbels refused to allow the police officer to draw blood and what responsibilities did the patient have to submit to testing, even if he was unconscious, the answer is fairly simple.

Supreme Court ruling on blood samples

This isn’t the first time the subject of blood draws without consent have come up in the United States. A case that went all the way to the Supreme Court ended with a ruling that a blood sample cannot be taken from a patient without consent or a warrant.

In this case the officer had neither a warrant or the patient’s consent, but what was on his side – he believed – was the patient’s implied consent.

Utah implied consent

What is implied consent? In Utah, just like in many other states, the very act of accepting a driver’s license means that you agree to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test should a police officer suspect you of drunk driving. That implied consent will apply if you’re pulled over by police, but experts weighing in on this Utah drunk driving case have said it doesn’t apply for a blood draw in the Alex Wubbels situation.

Only lawyers know how to interpret the specifics of Utah drunk driving laws, but it’s a good case for anyone to look at because it demonstrates the different ways implied consent can be interpreted in any state.

Breathalyzer, Blood draw, Or Just Say No?

breathalyzer-blood-draw-implied-consentPicture this: you’ve had a few drinks and you want to head home and go to bed. You don’t feel ‘drunk’ really, so you decide to get behind the wheel of your car and drive yourself home. It’s only when you see the lights flashing at a checkpoint up ahead that you think you might have made a mistake drinking and driving, but you pull up and hope for the best.

When you roll down your window and answer the questions the officer asks, you can tell he suspects you of drinking and driving. Suddenly you panic. What are your choices at this point? You’ve heard breathalyzers are not accurate, and you worry you could blow over .08 even if you’re not over the legal limit.

You could prove you’re sober by requesting a blood test, but you know they take a long time to process and you just want to go home. Maybe you should just refuse everything and hope the police let you leave?

When you’re pulled over for driving under the influence and you’ve been drinking, you don’t really have a lot of choices. If you’re over the legal limit, each decision you make will lead to penalties. You should also take implied consent laws into consideration: in most states, you are required by law to submit to a breathalyzer or chemical test to determine what your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is or whether you have drugs in your system. Because there is no breathalyzer for drugs, if the officer suspects you of driving under the influence of drugs he or she will ask you to submit to a chemical test.

The penalties for refusing a breathalyzer or blood draw can result in a longer suspension of your drivers license and enhanced penalties if you are found over the legal limit and are convicted of DUI. You will be fined, you will lose your license for one year for a first refusal, and you could be sent to jail if you are convicted of DUI at a later time. If it is your second refusal, you lose your license for two years.

Breathalyzer, blood draw, or just say no to both? Yes, it’s your choice, but before you decline just remember: what happens after you refuse isn’t much better than what happens if you decide to cooperate. If you want to avoid all of these issues there’s only one choice for anyone, and that’s not to drink and drive.

Drunk Driving Myths You Need To Know About

Myth Lock Ness MonsterThere are a lot of reasons why people make the decision to drink and drive. They might think they aren’t that intoxicated, so getting behind the wheel is no big deal. Or, they don’t think the laws apply to them, so why would they get stopped for driving under the influence (DUI)?

But one of the biggest reasons why people drive drunk is because they buy into drunk driving myths. These myths are widely held beliefs that most people take as fact, but the reality is that they just aren’t true.

Need an example? Here are 5 drunk driving myths:

Myth: Drinking coffee or having an ice cold shower will sober me up

Fact: The only way to get sober after drinking is by giving your body time to metabolize the alcohol. On average, you need approximately 2 hours to metabolize one standard alcohol drink.

Myth: When it comes to penalties, it’s better to not submit to a breathalyzer

Fact: Most states have what’s called an ‘Implied Consent’ law. That means by accepting a drivers license in your state, you agree to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test if a police officer suspects you of drinking and driving. If you refuse to submit to the breathalyzer, you could receive an additional charge and still lose your drivers license or be required to install an ignition interlock device.

Myth: Hyperventilating before you submit to a breathalyzer will affect your results and give you a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC)

Fact: It’s impossible to alter the reading of a breathalyzer by breathing in a different way, just like hyperventilating before you breath into an ignition interlock will affect whether you pass or fail.

Myth: After I sleep off the alcohol, I’ll be OK to drive

Fact: If you drink approximately 5 drinks all in a row and you fall asleep for 5 hours, when you wake up you would most likely still blow over the legal limit on a breathalyzer. Why? You’d have to wait 10 hours to fully metabolize 5 alcohol drinks, so going to sleep is no guarantee you won’t be drunk when you wake up.

Myth: When you’re convicted of drunk driving, you only have to pay a fine and that’s it

Fact: A DUI conviction can cost you a lot more than just a fine. Along with the fine you will pay court fees, drivers license reinstatement fees, and if required, ignition interlock installation and monthly fees.

There’s no good excuse or reason to drink and drive, so stay sober when you’re behind the wheel.

Should You Refuse A Breathalyzer?

refuse-breathalyzerDrinking and driving is something that people tend to not worry about until they’re getting stopped at a checkpoint or they’ve been pulled over for suspicion of drinking and driving. If you’ve had one or two drinks, you’ll be spending those first few minutes trying to decide what you’ll do if the officer asks you to submit to a breathalyzer test.

Chances are, he probably will ask you to blow into a breathalyzer, so what happens if you decline his or her request and opt to not give a breath sample? Despite what you can read on the Internet about your right to decline a breathalyzer test, if you’ve been drinking and driving, declining the breathalyzer isn’t going to help you avoid penalties for driving under the influence (DUI).

That’s because most states have something called Implied Consent, and that means just by applying for a drivers license in your state, you agree to submit to a breathalyzer test if you’re asked to take one. If you say no to the test, you’ll be subject to penalties that are, in some cases, almost exactly the same as if you were arrested and convicted for drinking and driving. Take New York for example—if you refuse a breathalyzer in New York state, you’ll lose your drivers license for an entire year. That’s exactly the same as the penalty when you’re arrested for drinking and driving.

It’s against the law to drive under the influence of alcohol in every state, and if you do you’ll receive penalties including possible jail time, drivers license suspension, and the possibility of a having an ignition interlock in every vehicle you drive.

The only way to avoid those penalties is to not drink and drive. You might read somewhere that you have the right to refuse the breathalyzer, but in the long run you’ll end up in the exact same position.

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