436 U.S. 307 (1978), 76-1143, Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 76-1143
Citation:436 U.S. 307, 98 S.Ct. 1816, 56 L.Ed.2d 305
Party Name:Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc.
Case Date:May 23, 1978
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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436 U.S. 307 (1978)

98 S.Ct. 1816, 56 L.Ed.2d 305

Marshall

v.

Barlow's, Inc.

No. 76-1143

United States Supreme Court

May 23, 1978

Argued January 9, 1978

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO

Syllabus

Appellee brought this action to obtain injunctive relief against a warrantless inspection of its business premises pursuant to § 8(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA), which empowers agents of the Secretary of [98 S.Ct. 1819] Labor to search the work area of any employment facility within OSHA's jurisdiction for safety hazards and violations of OSHA regulations. A three-judge District Court ruled in appellee's favor, concluding, in reliance on Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 528-529, and See v. Seattle, 387 U.S. 541, 543, that the Fourth Amendment required a warrant for the type of search involved and that the statutory authorization for warrantless inspections was unconstitutional.

Held: The inspection without a warrant or its equivalent pursuant to § 8(a) of OSHA violated the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 311-325.

(a) The rule that warrantless searches are generally unreasonable applies to commercial premises as well as homes. Camara v. Municipal Court, supra, and See v. Seattle, supra. Pp. 311-313.

(b) Though an exception to the search warrant requirement has been recognized for "closely regulated" industries "long subject to close supervision and inspection," Colonnade Catering Corp. v. United States, 397 U.S. 72, 74, 77, that exception does not apply simply because the business is in interstate commerce. Pp. 313-314.

(c) Nor does an employer's necessary utilization of employees in his operation mean that he has opened areas where the employees alone are permitted to the warrantless scrutiny of Government agents. Pp. 314-315.

(d) Insofar as experience to date indicates, requiring warrants to make OSHA inspections will impose no serious burdens on the inspection system or the courts. The advantages of surprise through the opportunity of inspecting without prior notice will not be lost if, after entry to an inspector is refused, an ex parte warrant can be obtained, facilitating an inspector's reappearance at the premises without further notice; and appellant Secretary's entitlement to a warrant will not depend on his demonstrating probable cause to believe that conditions on the premises

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violate OSHA, but merely that reasonable legislative or administrative standards for conducting an inspection are satisfied with respect to a particular establishment. Pp. 315-321.

(e) Requiring a warrant for OSHA inspections does not mean that, as a practical matter, warrantless search provisions in other regulatory statutes are unconstitutional, as the reasonableness of those provisions depends upon the specific enforcement needs and privacy guarantees of each statute. Pp. 321-322.

424 F.Supp. 437, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 325. BRENNAN, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 8(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA or Act)1 empowers agent of the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) to search the work area of any employment facility within the Act's jurisdiction. The purpose of the search is to inspect for safety hazards and violations of OSHA regulations. No search warrant or other process is expressly required under the Act.

On the morning of September 11, 1975, an OSHA inspector entered the customer service area of Barlow's, Inc., an electrical and plumbing installation business located in Pocatello, Idaho. The president and general manager, Ferrol G. "Bill" Barlow, was on hand; and the OSHA inspector, after showing his credentials,2 informed Mr. Barlow that he wished to conduct

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a search of the working areas of the business. Mr. Barlow inquired whether any complaint had been received about his company. The inspector answered no, but that Barlow's, Inc., had simply turned up in the agency's selection process. The inspector again asked to enter the nonpublic area of the business; Mr. Barlow's response was to inquire whether the inspector had a search warrant. The inspector had none. Thereupon, Mr. Barlow refused the inspector admission to the employee area of his business. He said he was relying on his rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Three months later, the Secretary petitioned the United States District Court for the District of Idaho to issue an order compelling Mr. Barlow to admit the inspector.3 The requested order was issued on December 30, 1975, and was presented to Mr. Barlow on January 5, 1976. Mr. Barlow again refused admission, and he sought his own injunctive relief against the warrantless searches assertedly permitted by OSHA. A three-judge court was convened. On December 30, 1976, it ruled in Mr. Barlow's favor. 424 F.Supp. 437. Concluding that Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 528-529 (1967), and See v. Seattle, 387 U.S. 541, 543 (1967), controlled this case, the court held that the Fourth Amendment required a warrant for the type of search involved here4 and that the statutory authorization for warrantless inspections was unconstitutional. An injunction against searches or inspections pursuant to § 8(a) was entered. The Secretary appealed, challenging the judgment, and we noted probable jurisdiction. 430 U.S. 964.

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I

The Secretary urges that warrantless inspections to enforce OSHA are reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Among other things, he relies on § 8(a) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. § 657(a), which authorizes inspection of business premises without a warrant and which the Secretary urges represents a congressional construction of the Fourth Amendment that the courts should not reject. Regrettably, we are unable to agree.

The Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment protects commercial buildings as well as private homes. To hold otherwise would belie the origin of that Amendment, [98 S.Ct. 1820] and the American colonial experience. An important forerunner of the first 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Virginia Bill of Rights, specifically opposed "general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed."5 The general warrant was a recurring point of contention in the Colonies immediately preceding the Revolution.6 The particular offensiveness it engendered was acutely felt by the merchants and businessmen whose premises and products were inspected for compliance with the several parliamentary revenue measures that most irritated the colonists.7

[T]he Fourth Amendment's commands grew in large measure out of the colonists' experience with the writs of assistance . . . [that] granted sweeping power to customs officials and other agents of the King to search at large for smuggled goods.

United States v. Chadwick, 433 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1977).

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See also G. M. Leasing Corp. v. United States, 429 U.S. 338, 355 (1977). Against this background, it is untenable that the ban on warrantless searches was not intended to shield places of business as well as of residence.

This Court has already held that warrantless searches are generally unreasonable, and that this rule applies to commercial premises as well as homes. In Camara v. Municipal Court, supra at 528-529, we held:

[E]xcept in certain carefully defined classes of cases, a search of private property without proper consent is "unreasonable" unless it has been authorized by a valid search warrant.

On the same day, we also ruled:

As we explained in Camara, a search of private houses is presumptively unreasonable if conducted without a warrant. The businessman, like the occupant of a residence, has a constitutional right to go about his business free from unreasonable official entries upon his private commercial property. The businessman, too, has that right placed in jeopardy if the decision to enter and inspect for violation of regulatory laws can be made and enforced by the inspector in the field without official authority evidenced by a warrant.

See v. Seattle, supra at 543.

These same cases also held that the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches protects against warrantless intrusions during civil, as well as criminal, investigations. Ibid. The reason is found in the

basic purpose of this Amendment . . . [which] is to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions by governmental officials.

Camara, supra at 528. If the government intrudes on a person's property, the privacy interest suffers whether the government's motivation is to investigate violations of criminal laws or breaches of other statutory or

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regulatory standards. It therefore appears that, unless some recognized exception to the warrant requirement applies, See v. Seattle would require a warrant to conduct the inspection sought in this case.

The Secretary urges that an exception from the search warrant requirement has been recognized for "pervasively regulated business[es]," United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, 316 (1972), and for "closely regulated" industries "long subject to close supervision and inspection." Colonnade Catering Corp. v. United States, 397 U.S. 72, 74, 77 (1970). [98 S.Ct. 1821] These cases are indeed exceptions, but they represent responses to relatively...

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