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Wisconsin Supreme Court: Police Coerced Driver to Consent to Blood Test

If you don't know whether you should submit to a blood-alcohol test in Wisconsin, you are not alone.

An important thing to understand is that under Wisconsin law your driver's license could be revoked if you refuse a breath or blood test. Still, as a recent OWI case illustrates, multiple factors must be considered to determine the legality of forensic alcohol testing.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently upheld the suppression of a driver's blood test results because police obtained consent by coercion.

In this particular case, the driver was involved in a collision with a bicyclist, and the driver remained on the scene after the accident. A deputy arrived and had no reason to believe that the driver was intoxicated because he showed no signs of intoxication.

However, the deputy explained to the driver that police usually obtain a blood test after serious crashes, and later at a hospital, the driver consented to a blood test.

A Question of Probable Cause

In Wisconsin, police officers are required by law to read the Informing the Accused Form to drivers who are suspected of drunk driving. The form states that, if a driver refuses a breath or blood test, the driver's driving privileges "will be revoked."

The deputy read the form to the driver, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that the language of the form misstates the law. How? By saying that refusal of a blood test "will" result in license revocation. However, if police do not have probable cause to request a blood test -- in this case, the driver showed no signs of intoxication -- then police cannot threaten license revocation in order to obtain consent from the driver.

Effectively, the driver was coerced to consent to the blood test, so the high court ruled that the test results should be suppressed.

The case further illustrates the importance of exploring all of the available defense options if you have been arrested for OWI in Wisconsin. For more on that, please see our OWI defense overview.

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