Inspections, Searches, and Seizures | jgersen | August 20, 2017

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Inspections, Searches, and Seizures

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The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states as follows:

  • The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. 

U.S. Const., Amend. IV.  In brief, before searching or seizing, state actors must traditionally obtain a warrant supported by probable cause that a crime has been committed.  Subject to many nuances and caveats that are beyond our topic of study, evidence obtained during an illegal—that is to say, warrantless—search may not generally be used to prosecute a criminal case.  The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  

FDA and USDA have been given inspection authority by virtue of a range of federal statutes like the Meat Inspection Act.  Is such inspection authority constiututional or does it consist of a warrantless or unreasonable search.  Is an inspection the same legal entity as a search?  What if evidence of illegal activity is discovered during an inspection?  Can that evidence always, sometimes, or never be used to sanction the facility?  The next cases illustrate how courts have grappled with these questions.  

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August 20, 2017

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Jacob Gersen

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