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Schmerber v. California

Significance, The Accident, Arrest, And Conviction, A Difficult Decision, Impact, Justice Abe Fortas


Armando Schmerber


State of California

Petitioner's Claim

That the blood test administered during his hospital stay for injuries suffered from a traffic accident violated his Fifth Amendment right against providing self-incriminating evidence as well as his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Thomas M. McGurrin

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Edward L. Davenport

Justices for the Court

William J. Brennan, Jr. (writing for the Court), Tom C. Clark, John Marshall Harlan II, Potter Stewart, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

Hugo Lafayette Black, William O. Douglas, Abe Fortas, Earl Warren


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

20 June 1966


The Court found that the Fifth Amendment did not prohibit blood tests to determine intoxication levels, because the Fifth Amendment applies to only interrogation and testimony and because the results of blood tests constituted neither testimony nor evidence of a confession or other communicative act. In addition, the Court concluded that the blood test did not a constitute an unreasonable search and seizure given the circumstances.

Related Cases

  • Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 (1886).
  • Breithaupt v. Abram, 352 U.S. 432 (1957).
  • Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).
  • Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1 (1964).


Paddock, Lisa. Facts About the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: H. W. Wilson and Company, 1996.

Further Readings

  • Dees, Rusch O. "An Employer `Quick Fix.'" Management Solutions, November 1986, p. 12.
  • Dripps, Donald A. "The Brennan Legacy." Trial, October 1997, p. 77.
  • Wall, Patricia S. "Drug Testing in the Workplace: An Update." Journal of Applied Business Research, spring 1992, p. 127.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972