Schmerber V. California Case Analysis

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A decision that is still very influential to Fourth Amendment jurisprudence is Schmerber v. California. After Schmerber and a friend drank at a bowling alley, Schmerber got behind the wheel of his car, and crashed his car into a tree. Because of their injuries, Schmerber and his friend were both taken to a hospital for treatment. Once at the hospital, a police officer requested that Schmerber submit to a chemical test of his breath so that officers could test for the presence of alcohol in his body. Schmerber again refused to comply with the test. After being directed to do so by a police officer, a physician took a blood sample from Schmerber – over Schmerber’s continued objections. The analysis of his blood showed that Schmerber was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident. Schmerber was charged with driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, and the subsequent report from the blood analysis was entered into evidence at a trial. Schmerber objected to the introduction of this evidence at trial, specifically arguing that the report…show more content…
The Court held that because of the “special facts” the “attempt to secure evidence of blood-alcohol content in this case was an appropriate incident to petitioner’s arrest.” Under current jurisprudence, we would construe the language about “special facts” as relating to the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment – which resists categorical rules – and instead focuses on the need for the intrusion and the availability of a warrant. However, the language also justifies the search as “incident to petitioner’s arrest,” which would indicate that the test was upheld as a search incident-to-arrest. In situations where it is appropriate, that has been described as a “categorical” exception to the warrant requirement that does not require any case-by-case

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