Schmerber v. California

Schmerber v. California Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
384 U.S. 757 (1966)

ISSUE: Was it unreasonable for the police to force a blood sample to be taken at a hospital of D's blood to determine its alcohol content following being arrest for DUI?
HOLDING: No.
FACTS:
  • D was arrested for DUI
  • At the hospital where he was for treatment of his injuries, the police directed a doctor to take a blood sample, which showed that D was in fact intoxicated
REASONING:
  • Search/seizure: Blood test is definitely a search and seizure protected by the 4th Amdt.
  • Balancing: Interests in human dignity and privacy which the 4th Amdt. protects forbid such intrusions on the mere chance that desired evidence might be obtained
    • Officers need a clear indication that in fact such evidence will be found
  • Test here reasonable: Blood test was reasonable here because D had just been arrested for DUI, and the test was administered in a hospital and by a doctor
    • Limited holding, however
COMMENTS:
  • The police can force an arrestee to give a blood sample (or, a fortiori, to do a breath test or urinalysis) when she has been arrested for drunk driving. However note that in Schmerber, the blood sample was taken in a hospital by a doctor, not in a run-down police station by an amateur phlebotomist, so this is a fact-specific inquiry.

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