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Schmerber v. California


The defendant was the apparent driver involved in an accident. At the direction of an officer, and without the defendant’s consent, a physician at the hospital drew blood from the defendant’s body. The chemical analysis of this sample indicated that the defendant was intoxicated. At trial, the chemical analysis was admitted into evidence against the defendant over his objection. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the withdrawal of the blood violated his constitutional protections, including his Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination.


Whether the withdrawal of the defendant’s blood, as well as the admission of the chemical analysis, violated the defendant’s Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination?


No. The defendant’s blood does not constitute a testimonial admission.


The Court held that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination “protects an accused only from being compelled to testify against himself, or otherwise provide the State with evidence of a testimonial or communicative nature, and that the withdrawal of blood and use of the analysis in question did not involve compulsion to these ends.” The right against self-incrimination protects a suspect’s communications, in whatever form they may take. However, the privilege does not protect a suspect from providing “real or physical evidence,” such as fingerprints, DNA or blood for identification.


384 U.S. 757, 86 S. Ct. 1826 (1966)

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