Schmerber v. California

384 U.S. 757, 86 S. Ct. 1826 (1966)



The overriding function of U.S. Const. amend. IV is to protect personal privacy and dignity against unwarranted intrusion by the state. The security of one's privacy against arbitrary intrusion by the police is the core of the Fourth Amendment and basic to a free society.


A defendant was convicted in the Los Angeles Municipal Court, California, of driving an automobile while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. After the defendant's arrest, while he was at a hospital receiving treatment for injuries suffered in an automobile accident, a blood sample was withdrawn by a physician at the direction of a police officer, acting without a search warrant, despite the defendant's refusal, on the advice of counsel, to consent to the blood test. The report of the chemical analysis of the test, indicating intoxication, was admitted in evidence at the trial, over the defendant's objection that the compulsory blood test and the admission of the evidence thereof violated his right to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment, and his privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment, and his right against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment, insofar as such rights were secured against the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Appellate Department of the California Superior Court affirmed the conviction.


Was there a violation of petitioner's right under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures?




The Court upheld petitioner's conviction. It held that the privilege against self-incrimination protected an accused only from being compelled to testify against himself, or to otherwise provide the State with evidence of a testimonial or communicative nature, and that the withdrawal of blood and use of the analysis did not involve compulsion to these ends. The Court also held that the record showed no violation of petitioner's right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, because the arresting officer could have reasonably concluded that the delay in obtaining a warrant could result in the destruction or disappearance of evidence and because the test was conducted in a reasonable manner.

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