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October 15, 2009 7:27 AM   Subscribe

what are the logistics for arresting someone for DUI if they are in the hospital?

say you have a car accident, go to the hospital, discover you are legally drunk, and it is reported to authorities. assuming you are not able to walk out of the hospital and go to jail that night, what happens?

do they arrest you in the hospital? arraign you in the hospital? send you to a jail hospital? have your lawyer go to court for you?

i've just always wondered this but it's not an easy google search.
posted by thinkingwoman to Law & Government (9 answers total)
You can be arrested at any time, I think. It's up to the judgment of the arresting officer. In a real life situation, I've heard of one person being arrested when the hospital released him.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:44 AM on October 15, 2009

Depending on the severity of the accident they'd either wait until you're released or arrest you in the hospital & cuff you to your bed if it was a bad scene, with heavy damage & others injured. Arraignment is done before a judge & is something the law requires you to be present for.
posted by scalefree at 8:05 AM on October 15, 2009

Looks like you don't even need to be conscious to be arrested, at least in Utah. In Wisconsin or Washington, you don't need to be conscious to have blood alcohol levels checked and then to be arrested.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:16 AM on October 15, 2009

I'm not at all in law enforcement, but I have read many times of people being arrested and charged while in the hostpital, then taken into custody when released from the hospital. For serious crimes, they may station an officer at the hospital door. Keep in mind that's it's not uncommon for people to be arrested, then released from custody (with ot without bail) and given a court date, so "arrested" does not always mean "in custody."
posted by The Deej at 8:37 AM on October 15, 2009

In my city, the big public hospital where drunks are taken has a specific ward for drunk arrestees.

If someone is clearly drunk when arrested in my city, they are always taken to the public hospital. The jail doesn't want to be responsible for them.

Sometimes, if someone is taken to the hospital after an accident in which they were injured and determined to have been impaired by alcohol/drugs, they are issued a misdemeanor citation in lieu of arrest at the hospital. (DUI defendants are ALWAYS arrested and required to post bond ... with the occasional exception of those who are issued misdemeanor citations at the hospital).
posted by jayder at 8:55 AM on October 15, 2009

I don't know for sure - and suspect it varies from state to state - but the arrest sounds problematic under the circumstances you describe. How did you discover, in the hospital, that you were legally drunk? Generally if you were badly enough hurt to be unconscious, they would not have been able to do a breathalyzer test or other field sobriety tests, nor were the police likely to have gotten a blood sample. The hospital would have analyzed your blood alcohol, but I believe the hospital tests are rarely admissable due to chain-of-custody issues.
posted by wjm at 9:00 AM on October 15, 2009

The short answer to your questions is that it would almost never be discovered that someone is legally drunk at the hospital and then then reported to authorities. The answer is complicated, but I do my best to explain below:

When an accident is reported through 911 or otherwise, police will always arrive on the scene along with medical professionals. This is when the investigation begins. First responders will address any medical emergencies. However, at accident scenes, police also have there eyes opens for signs of intoxication (empty alcohol bottles, odor of alcohol on driver, slurred speech, bar receipts, etc.). If the officer has probable cause to believe the driver was intoxicated then the driver will be under arrest regardless of whether he needs medical attention. As noted here in a related thread, police will not interfere with medical professionals administering aid. If the suspect must be rushed to the hospital before the investigation is complete then that will happen and the investigation will continue both at the scene and at the hospital. Or, it the police already have probable cause then the arrested person will be escorted to the hospital under guard.

At the hospital, the arrested person will be asked to submit to a blood alcohol analysis. If this were a non-injury DWI it would be a breath test done at a police station. At a hospital it would likely be a blood test. If the arrested person is unconscious, the police can instruct medical professionals to draw blood (driving is a privilege not a right, and in most states you consent to this act by operating a vehicle on public roadways). If the arrested person is conscious they have the option to submit to or refuse the analysis. If the analysis is refused, a court order can be obtained to forcibly take the blood sample.

(below is paraphrased from my previous answer)

The person will remain under guard at the hospital until doctors authorize release (technically a judge could order transport to another facility, but great deference is given to the doctors for obvious reasons). While remaining in the hospital the patient/arrestee will be in a private room, in the custody of the arresting agency or correctional facility (usually one officer outside room), and restrained to the extent necessary (usually handcuffed to the bed).

Most states require arraignment on criminal charges within 48 hours. If the patient/arrestee is unable to be transported to court, the arraignment will occur bedside with the necessary parties (judge, DA, court steno, defense attorney) traveling to the hospital to participate. It is at this point that the judge will make the decision as to whether the patient/arrestee will remain under guard. More simply put, if the judge sets bail the patient/arrestee stays under guard, if the judge releases him/her under their own recognizance, guard is no longer required.
posted by Mr. X at 11:45 AM on October 15, 2009

The next-most-popular acronym after variations on IANAL/IANYL/GAL for LegalFilter should be IVFSTS (it varies from state to state). This article states that, in Illinois, it is currently not mandatory for ER personnel to test for DUI, which MADD is lobbying to change.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:53 AM on October 15, 2009

In NYS, generally the subject is arrested as soon as reasonably possibler, and handcuffed to the hospital bed (more as a formality). An officer or two stays with the subject until release. After that, the subject is "booked" like normal.

Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances, and other states will have different procedures.
posted by Citrus at 12:55 PM on October 15, 2009

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