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Anyone who has been stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, screened at an international border, scanned by a metal detector at an airport or government building, or drug tested for public employment has been subjected to an administrative search or seizure. Searches of public school students, government employees, and probationers are characterized as administrative, as are business inspections and-increasingly-wiretaps and other searches used in the gathering of national security intelligence. In other words, the government conducts thousands of administrative searches every day. None of these searches requires either probable cause or a search warrant. Instead, courts evaluating administrative searches need only balance the government's interest in conducting the search against the degree of intrusion on the affected individual's privacy to determine whether the search is reasonable. This reasonableness balancing is very deferential to the government, and the resulting searches are almost always deemed reasonable. As a result, the administrative search exception functions as an enormously broad license for the government to conduct searches free from constitutional limitation.


Posted with the permission of Thomson Reuters.