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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

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Chapter 11 l.jpg

Chapter 11

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


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  • “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, 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 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 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?

  • 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

  • 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 inGovernment 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 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

  • 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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