These types of searches, sometimes called administrative, regulatory, or special need searches, all have one common element: they are not being done for the normal law enforcement needs of discovering crime, but for purposes that are not related to criminal investigation. These searches serve important societal needs other than crime control. The noncriminal purposes that we will discuss in this chapter include inspections of business establishments, drug testing programs, fire scene inspection, border searches, automobile checkpoint and inventory searches, probation supervision searches, and school disciplinary searches.
Initially such government activity was not governed by the Fourth Amendment. In Frank v. Maryland (1959), a case involving a Baltimore City Code provision allowing a health inspector to enter a home without a warrant if he had cause to suspect a nuisance, the Court upheld the validity of inspection without a warrant when it was part of a regulatory scheme designed to protect the general welfare of the community. In reaching this decision, the Court considered the long history of allowing this type of search, the magnitude of the problem the health inspection statute was designed to address, and the statutory safeguards that limited the demands actually imposed on the building owners. The Court decided that the Fourth Amendment did not apply because the search was not conducted to obtain evidence of criminal action. The Court reasoned that the primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment, like the Fifth Amendment, is to provide self-protection: “The right to resist unauthorized entry which has as its design the securing of information to fortify the coercive power of the state against the individual.” Thus, unless the government wanted access for the purpose of securing evidence for criminal prosecution, the right to self-protection was not in jeopardy, and the Fourth Amendment did not apply.