Schmerber v. California Case Brief

Facts of the case

Schmerber had been arrested for drunk driving while receiving treatment for injuries in a hospital. During his treatment, a police officer ordered a doctor to take a blood sample which indicated that Schmerber had been drunk while driving. The blood test was introduced as evidence in court and Schmerber was convicted.

Why is the case important?

DUI suspect had a blood sample taken. Analysis was used against him.


Whether blood taken despite a suspect’s refusal and the admission of the analysis in evidence denied him his privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.


No. The Supreme Court based its finding on precedent. While acknowledging that the State “compelled [petitioner] to submit to an attempt to discover evidence that might used to prosecute him,” it did no mean that he had been compelled “to be a witness against himself.” The Court concluded that the privilege is “a bar against compelling ‘communications’ or ‘testimony,’ but that compulsion which makes a suspect or accused the source of ‘real or physical evidence’ does not violate it.” The Court also listed fingerprints, photographs, measurements, writing or speaking samples, and the like as not being privileged.


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.

  • Advocates: –
  • Petitioner: Schmerber
  • Respondent: California
  • DECIDED BY:Warren Court
  • Location: –
Citation: 384 US 757 (1966)
Argued: Apr 25, 1966
Decided: Jun 20, 1966
Schmerber v. California Case Brief