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Chapter 11. “SPECIAL NEEDS” SEARCH & SEIZURE ISSUES Special needs of the GOVERNMENT to ensure public safety Special “regulatory” needs Private businesses are NOT covered by the 4 th amendment provisions. . Examples of “Special” searches.

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Chapter 11 l.jpg
Chapter 11

  • “SPECIAL NEEDS” SEARCH & SEIZURE ISSUES

  • Special needs of the GOVERNMENT to ensure public safety

  • Special “regulatory” needs

  • Private businesses are NOT covered by the 4th amendment provisions.


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Examples of “Special” searches

  • Security Screening at Airports, Courthouses, and public buildings or places

  • Border searches, customs and INS

  • Roadblocks, DUI “Checkpoints”

  • Drug trafficking? K-9’s?

  • Fire, Health, Motor Vehicle, Education, Housing, inspections


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Circumstances where special needs would justifysuspicion-less highway stops

  • Detecting drunk drivers

  • Verifying driver’s licenses and vehicle registration

  • Intercepting illegal aliens on border highways

  • Apprehending fleeing criminals

  • Thwarting terrorist activity or attack


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Evidence is admissible if obtained during an administrative function under the “Special Needs” of government

  • In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court held that…

  • “Probable cause standard is Peculiarly related to criminal investigations” and

  • “ may be unhelpful in analyzing the reasonableness of routine administrative functions”.


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  • Thousands of administrative searches and functions are conducted everyday by local, state, and federal employees.

  • The majority of these employees are not law enforcement officers.

  • They are not conducting criminal investigations but are conducting administrative functionsthat are related to thespecial needs of the governmentand the community.


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Examples of searches conducted everyday by local, state, and federal employees. without probable cause or search warrants of “Closely regulated businesses”

  • Search warrants are generally required for the administrative searches of commercial properties. However search warrants are not required for searches of “closely regulated” industries.


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U.S Supreme Court in 1987 case of New York v. Burger, 482 U.S.691, 107 S.Ct.2636.

3 requirementsare needed:

  • There must be a “substantial” government interest that informs the business operator of the “regulatory scheme” to which the inspection is to be made.

  • The inspection without a search warrant must be “necessary to further the regulatory scheme”


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  • The regulatory law must perform the U.S.691, 107 S.Ct.2636. two basic functions of a search warrant

    • It must advise the business owner that a search is to be made pursuant to the law

    • The law must limit the discretion of the inspecting officers


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Drug Testing? U.S.691, 107 S.Ct.2636.

  • With or without “reasonable suspicion?”

  • Private business may test employees without it!

  • Government Employees must be tested under three conditions: (w/reasonable suspicion)

  • To ensure that the employee has “unimpeachable integrity and judgment.”

  • To Enhance Public Safety

  • Protecting truly sensitive information


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Work-Related searches in government offices U.S.691, 107 S.Ct.2636.

  • Private employers may make work-related searchesof employees’ desks, files, and company-owned computers as they wish.

  • Public supervisors have wide latitude to search public employee’s offices, desks, and files without a search warrant or probable cause.


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Ortega Rule U.S.691, 107 S.Ct.2636.

  • Work Related Searches in Public Safety or Government Offices

  • Wide Latitude to search but…

  • Greater justification needed to search “personal items.”

  • Briefcase, handbag, backpack, etc.


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