Breithaupt v. Abram - 352 U.S. 432 (1957)


U.S. Supreme Court

Breithaupt v. Abram, 352 U.S. 432 (1957)

Breithaupt v. Abram

No. 69

Argued December 12-13, 1956

Decided February 25, 1957

352 U.S. 432

Syllabus

Petitioner, while driving a pickup truck on a state highway, was involved in a collision which resulted in the deaths of three persons and his serious injury. While he was lying unconscious in the emergency room of a hospital, the smell of liquor was detected on his breath, and a state patrolman requested that a sample of his blood be taken. An attending physician, using a hypodermic needle, drew a blood sample which, on laboratory analysis, contained about .17% alcohol. Thereafter, petitioner was convicted in a state court voluntary manslaughter. At his trial, the evidence of the blood test, together with expert testimony that a person with .17% alcohol in his blood was under the influence of intoxicating liquor, was admitted over petitioner's objection.

Held: petitioner was not deprived of due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 352 U. S. 433-440.

(a) In a prosecution in a state court for a state crime, the Fourteenth Amendment does not forbid the use of evidence obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure violative of the Fourth Amendment, nor of compelled testimony violative of the Fifth Amendment, even if the evidence in this case were so obtained. P. 352 U. S. 434.

(b) The taking of a blood test by a skilled technician is not "conduct that shocks the conscience," nor such a method of obtaining evidence as offends a "sense of justice." Rochin v. California, 342 U. S. 165, and Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U. S. 278, distinguished. Pp. 352 U. S. 435-438.

(c) The right of the individual to immunity from such invasion of the body as is involved in a properly safeguarded blood test is far outweighed by the value of its deterrent effect due to public realization that the issue of driving while under the influence of alcohol can often by this method be taken out of the confusion of conflicting contentions. Pp. 352 U. S. 439-440.

58 N.M. 385, 271 P.2d 827, affirmed.

Page 352 U. S. 433



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