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Chapter 11. Evidence is Admissible if Obtained During an Administrative Function Under the “Special Needs” of Government. “Special needs” search & seizure issues Special needs of the government to ensure public safety Special “regulatory” needs

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Chapter 11

Evidence is Admissible if Obtained During an Administrative Function Under the “Special Needs” of Government


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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, and 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 every day 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 every day 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 conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees. 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 conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees. 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? conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees.

  • With or without “reasonable suspicion?”

  • Private businesses may test employees without it!

  • Government employees must be tested under three conditions, with reasonable suspicion:

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

    • To enhance public safety

    • Protecting truly sensitive information


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School-Related Drug Testing conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees.

  • School boards may require random drug testing of student athletes.

  • They may also require random drug testing of students participating in extracurricular activities.


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Work-Related Searches in conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees. Government Offices

  • 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 conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees.

  • 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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Identification Checkpoints in Public Housing Projects conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees.

  • Due to excessive illegal drug use and associated violence, residents are issued identification cards and may be stopped, usually at the entrance to a housing project.

  • More and more states are holding that these checkpoints are a violation of the Fourth Amendment.


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Border Searches conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees.

  • In U.S. v. Arnold (9th Cir., 2008), the court held that federal border agents did not need particular suspicion to view laptop computer files.


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Sham Roadblocks conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees.

  • These roadblocks have been upheld by the courts.

  • Law enforcement may post fake notices about drug checkpoints so motorists will discard drugs and be observed doing so by law enforcement officers.


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Correctional Programs, Hearings conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees.

  • These and other requirements may cause prison inmates to incriminate themselves.

  • In U.S. v. Knight (2002), the Supreme Court held that persons on probation and parole had diminished privacy interest.

  • Therefore, officers were justified to stop and search based on reasonable suspicion that the person was engaged in criminal activity.


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  • However, in conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees. Samson v. CA (2006), the Supreme Court held that law enforcement officers may conduct suspicionless searches of parolees, as they are still under the “control” of the prison system.


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Obtaining Evidence in Foreign Countries conducted every day by local, state, and federal employees.

  • This is especially important for finding and prosecuting terrorists.

  • It is also extremely difficult in some jurisdictions.

  • MLATs (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties) are used to obtain evidence in a number of countries.


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