Donovan v. Dewey, No. 80-901

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation69 L.Ed.2d 262,101 S.Ct. 2534,452 U.S. 594
Decision Date17 June 1981
Docket NumberNo. 80-901
PartiesRaymond J. DONOVAN, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Appellant, v. Douglas DEWEY et al

452 U.S. 594
101 S.Ct. 2534
69 L.Ed.2d 262
Raymond J. DONOVAN, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Appellant,

v.

Douglas DEWEY et al.

No. 80-901.
Argued April 28, 1981.
Decided June 17, 1981.
Syllabus

Section 103(a) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 requires federal mine inspectors to inspect underground mines at least four times a year and surface mines at least twice a year to ensure compliance with health and safety standards, and to make followup inspections to determine whether previously discovered violations have been corrected. The section also grants inspectors the right of entry to any coal or other mine and provides that no advance notice of an inspection need be given. If a mine operator refuses to allow a warrantless inspection under § 103(a), the Secretary of Labor is authorized to bring a civil action for injunctive or other relief. When a federal inspector attempted a followup inspection of appellee company's stone quarries, appellee officer of the company refused to allow the inspection to continue. Subsequently, the Secretary of Labor filed suit in Federal District Court seeking to enjoin the company from refusing to permit warrantless searches of its facility. The District Court granted summary judgment for appellees on the ground that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the warrantless searches authorized by § 103(a).

Held: The warrantless inspections required by § 103(a) do not violate the Fourth Amendment but instead are reasonable within the meaning of the Amendment. Pp. 598-606.

(a) Unlike searches of private homes, which generally must be conducted pursuant to a warrant in order to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, legislative schemes authorizing warrantless administrative searches of commercial property do not necessarily violate that Amendment. A warrant may not be constitutionally required when Congress has reasonably determined that warrantless searches are necessary to further a regulatory scheme, and the federal regulatory presence is sufficiently comprehensive and defined that the owner of commercial property cannot help but be aware that his property will be subject to periodic inspections undertaken for specific purposes. Pp. 598-602.

(b) Here, in view of the substantial federal interest in improving the health and safety conditions in mines, and of Congress' awareness that the mining industry is among the most hazardous and that this industry's poor health and safety record has significant deleterious effects on

Page 595

interstate commerce, Congress could reasonably determine that a system of warrantless inspections was necessary "if the law is to be properly enforced and inspection made effective." United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, 316, 92 S.Ct. 1593, 1596, 32 L.Ed.2d 87. Pp. 602-603.

(c) Moreover, the statute's inspection program, in terms of the certainty and regularity of its application, provides a constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant. Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., 436 U.S. 307, 98 S.Ct. 1816, 56 L.Ed.2d 305, distinguished. Pp. 603-604.

(d) The fact that stone quarries, as opposed to underground mines, do not have a long tradition of Government regulation, does not, in itself, mean that the warrantless inspection in question violated the Fourth Amendment. It is the pervasiveness and regularity of federal regulation that ultimately determines whether a warrant is necessary to render an inspection program reasonable under that Amendment. If the length of regulation were the only criterion, absurd results would occur which the Fourth Amendment's concept of reasonableness would not tolerate. Pp. 604-606.

493 F.Supp. 963, reversed and remanded.

Kenneth S. Geller, Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Francis R. Croak, Milwaukee, Wis., for appellees.

Page 596

Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case we consider whether § 103(a) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C. § 813(a) (1976 ed., Supp. III), which authorizes warrantless inspections of underground and surface mines, violates the Fourth Amendment. Concluding that searches conducted pursuant to this provision are reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, we reverse the judgment of the District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin invalidating the statute.

I

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 91 Stat. 1290, 30 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. III), requires the Secretary of Labor to develop detailed mandatory health and safety standards to govern the operation of the Nation's mines. 30 U.S.C. § 811 (1976 ed., Supp. III).1 Section 103(a) of the Act, 30 U.S.C. § 813(a) (1976 ed., Supp. III), provides that federal mine inspectors are to inspect underground mines at least four times per year and surface mines at least twice a year to insure compliance with these standards, and to make followup inspections to determine whether previously discovered violations have been corrected. This section also grants mine inspectors "a right of entry to, upon, or through any coal or other mine" 2 and states that "no advance notice of an inspection shall be provided to any person." If a mine operator refuses to allow a warrantless inspection conducted pursuant to § 103(a), the Secretary

Page 597

is authorized to institute a civil action to obtain injunctive or other appropriate relief. 30 U.S.C. § 818(a)(1)(C) (1976 ed., Supp. III.)

In July 1978, a federal mine inspector attempted to inspect quarries owned by appellee Waukesha Lime and Stone Co. in order to determine whether all 25 safety and health violations uncovered during a prior inspection had been corrected. After the inspector had been on the site for about an hour, Waukesha's president, appellee Douglas Dewey, refused to allow the inspection to continue unless the inspector first obtained a search warrant. The inspector issued a citation to Waukesha for terminating the inspection,3 and the Secretary subsequently filed this civil action in the District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin seeking to enjoin appellees from refusing to permit warrantless searches of the Waukesha facility.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees on the ground that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the warrantless searches of stone quarries authorized by § 103(a) of the Act.4 493 F.Supp. 963 (1980). The

Page 598

Secretaryappealed directly to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1252. Because the District Court's ruling invalidated an important provision of the Mine Safety and Health Act, we noted probable jurisdiction.5 Sub nom. Marshall v. Dewey, 449 U.S. 1122, 101 S.Ct. 937, 67 L.Ed.2d 108 (1981).

II

Our prior cases have established that the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches applies to administrative inspections of private commercial property. Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., 436 U.S. 307, 98 S.Ct. 1816, 56 L.Ed.2d 305 (1978); See v. City of Seattle, 387 U.S. 541, 87 S.Ct. 1737, 18 L.Ed.2d 943 (1967). However, unlike searches of private homes, which generally must be conducted pursuant to a warrant in order to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,6 legislative schemes authorizing warrantless administrative searches of commercial property do not necessarily violate the Fourth Amendment. See, e. g., United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, 92 S.Ct. 1593, 32 L.Ed.2d 87 (1972); Colonnade Catering Corp. v. United States, 397 U.S. 72, 90 S.Ct. 774, 775, 25 L.Ed.2d 60 (1970). The greater latitude to conduct warrantless inspections of commercial property reflects the fact that the expectation of privacy that the owner of commercial property enjoys in such property differs significantly from the sanctity accorded an

Page 599

individual's home, and that this privacy interest may, in certain circumstances, be adequately protected by regulatory schemes authorizing warrantless inspections. United States v. Biswell, supra, 406 U.S., at 316, 92 S.Ct., at 1596.

The interest of the owner of commercial property is not one in being free from any inspections. Congress has broad authority to regulate commercial enterprises engaged in or affecting interstate commerce, and an inspection program may in some cases be a necessary component of federal regulation. Rather, the Fourth Amendment protects the interest of the owner of property in being free from unreasonable intrusions onto his property by agents of the government. Inspections of commercial property may be unreasonable if they are not authorized by law or are unnecessary for the furtherance of federal interests. Colonnade Catering Corp. v. United States, supra, 397 U.S., at 77, 90 S.Ct., at 777. Similarly, warrantless inspections of commercial property may be constitutionally objectionable if their occurrence is so random, infrequent, or unpredictable that the owner, for all practical purposes, has no real expectation that his property will from time to time be inspected by government officials. Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., supra, at 323, 98 S.Ct., at 1826. "Where Congress has authorized inspection but made no rules governing the procedures that inspectors must follow, the Fourth Amendment and its various restrictive rules apply." Colonnade Corp. v. United States, supra, 397 U.S., at 77, 90 S.Ct., at 777. In such cases, a warrant may be necessary to protect the owner from the "unbridled discretion [of] executive and administrative officers," Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., supra, 436 U.S., at 323, 98 S.Ct., at 1826, by assuring him that "reasonable legislative or administrative standards for conducting an . . . inspection are satisfied with respect to a particular [establishment]." Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 538, 87 S.Ct. 1727, 1735, 18 L.Ed.2d 930 (1967).

However, the assurance of regularity provided by a warrant may be unnecessary under certain inspection schemes. Thus, in Colonnade Corp. v. United States...

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534 practice notes
  • Aspinwall v. Herrin, Civ. A. No. 293-6.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Georgia)
    • December 27, 1994
    ...or exigent circumstances, a private home may not be entered to conduct a search or effect an arrest without a warrant." Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 598 n. 6, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 2538 n. 6, 69 L.Ed.2d 262 Poppell, acting as a law enforcement officer, entered Leger's apartment without a searc......
  • Serpas v. Schmidt, No. 85-2393
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 17, 1987
    ...governmental oversight. New York v. Burger, --- U.S. ----, 107 S.Ct. 2636, 96 L.Ed.2d 601 (1987) (junkyards); Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 69 L.Ed.2d 262 (1981) (mining); United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, 92 S.Ct. 1593, 32 L.Ed.2d 87 (1972) (firearms); Colonnade Cat......
  • Free Speech Coal., Inc. v. Holder, Civil Action No. 09–4607.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 18, 2013
    ...(1970); see also Lovgren v. Byrne, 787 F.2d 857, 865–66 (3d Cir.1986). To date, courts have recognized mine operators, Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 69 L.Ed.2d 262 (1981); liquor sellers, Colonnade, 397 U.S. at 74, 90 S.Ct. 774; firearms dealers, United States v. Biswell, ......
  • Copar Pumice Company, Inc. v. Morris, No. CIV 07-0079 JB/ACT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • March 29, 2008
    ...less than, a similar expectation in an individual's home." New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. at 699, 107 S.Ct. 2636 (citing Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 598-99, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 69 L.Ed.2d 262 "It is well-established that a warrantless search is presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
530 cases
  • Aspinwall v. Herrin, Civ. A. No. 293-6.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Georgia)
    • December 27, 1994
    ...or exigent circumstances, a private home may not be entered to conduct a search or effect an arrest without a warrant." Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 598 n. 6, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 2538 n. 6, 69 L.Ed.2d 262 Poppell, acting as a law enforcement officer, entered Leger's apartment without a searc......
  • Serpas v. Schmidt, No. 85-2393
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 17, 1987
    ...governmental oversight. New York v. Burger, --- U.S. ----, 107 S.Ct. 2636, 96 L.Ed.2d 601 (1987) (junkyards); Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 69 L.Ed.2d 262 (1981) (mining); United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, 92 S.Ct. 1593, 32 L.Ed.2d 87 (1972) (firearms); Colonnade Cat......
  • Free Speech Coal., Inc. v. Holder, Civil Action No. 09–4607.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 18, 2013
    ...(1970); see also Lovgren v. Byrne, 787 F.2d 857, 865–66 (3d Cir.1986). To date, courts have recognized mine operators, Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 69 L.Ed.2d 262 (1981); liquor sellers, Colonnade, 397 U.S. at 74, 90 S.Ct. 774; firearms dealers, United States v. Biswell, ......
  • Copar Pumice Company, Inc. v. Morris, No. CIV 07-0079 JB/ACT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • March 29, 2008
    ...less than, a similar expectation in an individual's home." New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. at 699, 107 S.Ct. 2636 (citing Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 598-99, 101 S.Ct. 2534, 69 L.Ed.2d 262 "It is well-established that a warrantless search is presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-3, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...The Supreme Court has also held that search warrants are not necessary to enforce certain regulatory programs. See Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 598–606 (1981) (holding if a statutory inspection program provides a “constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant” in terms of certainty ......
  • Inspections and information gathering
    • United States
    • Introduction to environmental law: cases and materials on water pollution control - 2d Edition
    • July 23, 2017
    ...ground that it is too speculative. he Miners have not even alleged that any search has occurred. he Supreme Court in Donovan v. Dewey , 452 U.S. 594 (1981), announced that: [T]he Fourth Amendment protects the interest of the owner of property in being free from unreasonable intrusions onto ......
  • Case Initiation and Response
    • United States
    • Environmental crimes deskbook 2nd edition Part One
    • June 20, 2014
    ...397 U.S. 72, 75 (1970) (liquor industry); United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, 315-16 (1972) (irearms industry); Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 602-03 (1980) (mining industry). 41. See, e.g. , United States v. V-1 Oil Co . , 63 F.3d 909, 911-12, 26 ELR 20058 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denie......
  • Climate Drones: A New Tool for Oil and Gas Air Emission Monitoring
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 46-12, December 2016
    • December 1, 2016
    ...EPA’s surveillance of a large industrial facility—concerned “manned aircraft 112. Villasenor, supra note 9, at 486. 113. Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 606 (1981); James, supra note 71, at 184 (explaining that “commercial premises tends to be on the low end of the privacy spectrum”). 114. ......

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