Welsh v. Wisconsin

LOCATION: The D&B Corporation

DOCKET NO.: 82-5466
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Wisconsin Supreme Court

CITATION: 466 US 740 (1984)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1983
DECIDED: May 15, 1984

Gordon B. Baldwin - on behalf of the Petitioner
Stephen W. Kleinmaier - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

In 1978, Edward G. Welsh was noticed driving a vehicle unpredictably while he was drunken probably. He turned off the road into a field and went to a home. The witness called police office and described Welsh as the intoxicated or sick person. Through the place of the car`s registration, the officer got to know where the accused lived. At approximately 9:00 p.m. the officer came to his home and found him in bed. He arrested defendant for driving the car in the state of intoxication. However, Welsh didn`t agree to make a breathe test required to be taken for every person accused of driving issues.

Welsh v Wisconsin case brief explained that the district trial deemed the arrest as legible and the disagreement to made test to check the level of alcohol in blood was unreasonable and infringed the state laws. The judges condemned him for breach of traffic rules and ordered to cancel the driving license, but at the appellate level the court changed this ruling. But the Supreme Court of the State renovated the suspension order.

The plaintiff complained that as the police imprisoned him without the order, they infringed his rights under the 4th Amendment. Furthermore, the court ordered certiorari in Welsh v. Wisconsin to revise the judgment by the USA Supreme Court. The judges found that the arrest of the accused without the warrant was the breach of his constitutional guarantees as the state prosecutor didn`t prove the presence of the urgent conditions. As the police had the probable reason for imprisonment, but didn`t confirm it and obtained the permission before, the defendant`s refusal to check alcohol percentage in blood be considered as legal and in his interest.

Hence, the Court reversed the previous decisions and canceled the cease of the defendant`s driving license.


Media for Welsh v. Wisconsin

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1983 in Welsh v. Wisconsin

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Welsh against Wisconsin.

Mr. Baldwin, I think you may proceed when you are ready.

Gordon B. Baldwin:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This is an exigent circumstances case.

On that proposition I think there is agreement between the State and the Defendant.

The issue in this case is whether an exigent circumstances doctrine will justify the arrest of the Defendant in his home.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court calling Fourth Amendment standards upheld the right of police without a warrant and without establishing consent to enter a home at night to arrest the householder for a traffic offense that was not committed in the officer's presence.

Warren E. Burger:

You said at night.

About what time was it?

Gordon B. Baldwin:

The officer reportedly heard the call at 8:49 p.m. There was some dispute as to how long it took the officer to get to the house.

I think it is generally agreed it is about 9:00.

That was about a week before we would have gone on to daylight savings time so it was dark.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court justified the traffic arrest applying its traffic arrest statute, and it held that exigent circumstances justified the arrest.

It did so for three reasons: first, that the arrest was justified by a hot pursuit doctrine; secondly, that the Defendant who as I said was arrested in his home in his bedroom constituted a possible threat to public safety; and third, that the arrest was necessary in order to secure evidence of possible intoxication.

Now on the facts we do not know exactly what the arresting officer knew.

The arresting officer relied on an eye witness who saw a car driven erratically, crossed in front of oncoming traffic and stopped or got stuck in an open field or cemetery.

Warren E. Burger:

When you said at the outset that this was truly an exigent circumstances case, did you mean that the exigent circumstance is the need of the officers to apprehend this gentleman while he might still be subject to a breathalyzer test or observation?

Gordon B. Baldwin:

The officers justified, Mr. Chief Justice, the entry into the home as required by the need to obtain a blood-alcohol test, Officer Daley said, within two hours of the event to be proved.

Warren E. Burger:

In other words to preserve evidence.

Gordon B. Baldwin:

This was to preserve... As Officer Daley said, yes, to preserve evidence of intoxication he felt he had to enter the home under those circumstances.

The officer had been called by a passing motorist and spoke to the eye witness.

We do not know exactly what the eye witness said, but there is a discrepancy between what the eye witness testified on the stand where he said he thought that the errant driver was either drunk or sick and what the officer said he said.

The officer said he received the opinion that the errant driver was definitely intoxicated.

There was a difference.

My point is that we would know what the arresting officer knew or thought if we had a warrant applied for during the course of that next hour or so.

The officer did trace the automobile to the Defendant's home which was about half a mile away, went quickly to the home, knocked on the door.

That is clear.

What happened at the door is in dispute because the sixteen-year-old step-daughter who answered the knock was not available to testify to when this hearing occurred about two years later.

The officer went upstairs to the bedroom where he encountered Edward Welsh--

William H. Rehnquist:

Did the Circuit Court make any finding as to whether it had been consent?