Probable Cause for Searches

The Fourth Amendment forbids unreasonable search and seizures.  The Fourth Amendment specifies that all warrants must be judicially sanctioned for a search or seizure.  Warrants are to be supported by probable cause.  The Fourth Amendment applies to governmental searches and seizures.  An administrative agency is supposed to have legally sufficient reasons to believe that a search is necessary to stay within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment.

Generally, administrative search warrants are required for fire, health, or safety inspections of residential or private commercial property.  Probable cause requirement for administrative warrants is not as strict as that required in criminal investigations because privacy interests at stake are not high.  Probable cause in administrative searches refers to reasonable cause to search the individual[i].  Grounds for a search is to satisfy that invasion of personal privacy are justified by legitimate governmental interests[ii].  For example, specific evidence of violation of an existing statute or regulation, or a reasonable plan supported by a valid public interest, will justify warrant issuance to conduct an administrative search.  Exigent circumstances will justify a warrantless administrative search.  In cases where valid consent of an individual is present administrative search can be performed without a warrant.  If a valid public interest justifies intrusion by administrative agency, then there is probable cause to issue a suitably restricted search warrant.

[i] Board of County Comm’rs v. Grant, 264 Kan. 58 (Kan. 1998)

[ii] Torres v. Puerto Rico, 442 U.S. 465 (U.S. 1979)


Inside Probable Cause for Searches