SCHMERBER V. CALIFORNIA, 384 U. S. 757 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966)

Schmerber v. California

No. 658

Argued April 25, 1966

Decided June 20, 1966

384 U.S. 757


Petitioner was hospitalized following an accident involving an automobile which he had apparently been driving. A police officer smelled liquor on petitioner's breath and noticed other symptoms of drunkenness at the accident scene and at the hospital, placed him under arrest, and informed him that he was entitled to counsel, that he could remain silent, and that anything he said would be used against him. At the officer's direction, a physician took a blood sample from petitioner despite his refusal on advice of counsel to consent thereto. A report of the chemical analysis of the blood, which indicated intoxication, was admitted in evidence over objection at petitioner's trial for driving while intoxicated. Petitioner was convicted, and the conviction was affirmed by the appellate court, which rejected his claims of denial of due process, of his privilege against self-incrimination, of his right to counsel, and of his right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures.


1. Breithaupt v. Abram, 352 U. S. 432, in which a claim of denial of due process of law was rejected in a similar situation is controlling as to the due process aspect. Pp. 384 U. S. 759-760.

2. The privilege against self-incrimination is not available to an accused in a case such as this, where there is not even a shadow of compulsion to testify against himself, or otherwise provide the State with evidence of a testimonial or communicative nature. Pp. 384 U. S. 760-765

3. Petitioner's limited claim, that he was denied his right to counsel by virtue of the withdrawal of blood over his objection on his counsel's advice is rejected, since he acquired no right merely because counsel advised that he could assert one. Pp. 384 U. S. 765-766.

4. In view of the substantial interests in privacy involved, petitioner's right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the withdrawal of his blood, but, under the facts in this case, there was no violation of that right. Pp. 384 U. S. 766-772.

(a) There was probable cause for the arrest, and the same facts as established probable cause justified the police in requiring

Page 384 U. S. 758

petitioner to submit to a test of his blood alcohol content. In view of the time required to bring petitioner to a hospital, the consequences of delay in making a blood test for alcohol, and the time needed to investigate the accident scene, there was no time to secure a warrant, and the clear indication that, in fact, evidence of intoxication would be found rendered the search an appropriate incident of petitioner's arrest. Pp. 384 U. S. 770-771.

(b) The test chosen to measure petitioner's blood alcohol level was a reasonable one, since it was an effective means of determining intoxication, imposed virtually no risk, trauma or pain, and was performed in a reasonable manner by a physician in a hospital. P. 384 U. S. 771.


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