The Law School Authority

Schmerber v. California Case Brief

Summary of Schmerber v. California, 348 U.S. 757 (1966)

Facts: Appellant was involved in an accident and he was taken to the hospital by the police officer where a blood sample was withdrawn to test for his blood alcohol level.  Appellant objected to the test and now claims that the blood sample violated his 4th, 5th and 6th Amendment rights (only 4th and 5th for our purposes).

Procedure:  The Appellate Department of California Superior Court affirmed appellant’s conviction.

Issue:  Did the withdrawing of the blood sample violate appellant’s 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination?  Did it violate his 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures?

Holding:  No, No

Rationale:  The Court held that the blood test did not violate the 5th Amendment because this Amendment protects only against compulsion to give testimonial or communicative evidence and not physical evidence as is involved in this case.  The Court further held that the blood test did not violate the 4th Amendment.  The 4thAmendment clearly protects the rights of people to be securing in “their person”.  But in this case, the officer smelled alcohol and observed that the appellant’s eyes were bloodshot, watery and had a glassy appearance.  Furthermore, the officer had the reasonable fear that the evidence will be lost if he goes out to seek a search warrant.  Therefore, the blood test was an appropriate measure conducted in a reasonable manner.

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