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decided: May 23, 1978.



White, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and Stewart, Marshall, and Powell, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Blackmun and Rehnquist, JJ., joined, post, p. 325. Brennan, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Author: White

[ 436 U.S. Page 309]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 8 (a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA or Act)*fn1 empowers agents of the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) to search the work area of any employment facility within the Act's jurisdiction. The purpose of the search is to inspect for safety hazards and violations of OSHA regulations. No search warrant or other process is expressly required under the Act.

On the morning of September 11, 1975, an OSHA inspector entered the customer service area of Barlow's, Inc., an electrical and plumbing installation business located in Pocatello, Idaho. The president and general manager, Ferrol G. "Bill" Barlow, was on hand; and the OSHA inspector, after showing his credentials,*fn2 informed Mr. Barlow that he wished to conduct

[ 436 U.S. Page 310]

     a search of the working areas of the business. Mr. Barlow inquired whether any complaint had been received about his company. The inspector answered no, but that Barlow's, Inc., had simply turned up in the agency's selection process. The inspector again asked to enter the nonpublic area of the business; Mr. Barlow's response was to inquire whether the inspector had a search warrant. The inspector had none. Thereupon, Mr. Barlow refused the inspector admission to the employee area of his business. He said he was relying on his rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Three months later, the Secretary petitioned the United States District Court for the District of Idaho to issue an order compelling Mr. Barlow to admit the inspector.*fn3 The requested order was issued on December 30, 1975, and was presented to Mr. Barlow on January 5, 1976. Mr. Barlow again refused admission, and he sought his own injunctive relief against the warrantless searches assertedly permitted by OSHA. A three-judge court was convened. On December 30, 1976, it ruled in Mr. Barlow's favor. 424 F.Supp. 437. Concluding that Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 528-529 (1967), and See v. Seattle, 387 U.S. 541, 543 (1967), controlled this case, the court held that the Fourth Amendment required a warrant for the type of search involved here*fn4 and that the statutory authorization for warrantless inspections was unconstitutional. An injunction against searches or inspections pursuant to § 8 (a) was entered. The Secretary appealed, challenging the judgment, and we noted probable jurisdiction. 430 U.S. 964.

[ 436 U.S. Page 311]


The Secretary urges that warrantless inspections to enforce OSHA are reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Among other things, he relies on § 8 (a) of the Act, 29 U. S. C. § 657 (a), which authorizes inspection of business premises without a warrant and which the Secretary urges represents a congressional construction of the Fourth Amendment that the courts should not reject. Regrettably, we are unable to agree.

The Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment protects commercial buildings as well as private homes. To hold otherwise would belie the origin of that Amendment, and the American colonial experience. An important forerunner of the first 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Virginia Bill of Rights, specifically opposed "general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed."*fn5 The general warrant was a recurring point of contention in the Colonies immediately preceding the Revolution.*fn6 The particular offensiveness it engendered was acutely felt by the merchants and businessmen whose premises and products were inspected for compliance with the several parliamentary revenue measures that most irritated the colonists.*fn7 "[The] Fourth Amendment's commands grew in large measure out of the colonists' experience with the writs of assistance . . . [that] granted sweeping power to customs officials and other agents of the King to search at large for smuggled goods." United States v. Chadwick, 433 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1977).

[ 436 U.S. Page 312]

     See also G. M. Leasing Corp. v. United States, 429 U.S. 338, 355 (1977). Against this background, it is untenable that the ban on warrantless searches was not intended to shield places of business as well as of residence.

This Court has already held that warrantless searches are generally unreasonable, and that this rule applies to commercial premises as well as homes. In Camara v. Municipal Court, supra, at 528-529, we held:

"[Except] in certain carefully defined classes of cases, a search of private property without proper consent is 'unreasonable' unless it has been authorized by a valid search warrant."

On the same day, we also ruled:

"As we explained in Camara, a search of private houses is presumptively unreasonable if conducted without a warrant. The businessman, like the occupant of a residence, has a constitutional right to go about his business free from unreasonable official entries upon his private commercial property. The businessman, too, has that right placed in jeopardy if the decision to enter and inspect for violation of regulatory laws can be made and enforced by the inspector in the field without official authority evidenced by a warrant." See v. Seattle, supra, at 543.

These same cases also held that the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches protects against warrantless intrusions during civil as well as criminal investigations. Ibid. The reason is found in the "basic purpose of this Amendment . . . [which] is to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions by governmental officials." Camara, supra, at 528. If the government intrudes on a person's property, the privacy interest suffers whether the government's motivation is to investigate violations of criminal laws or breaches of other statutory or

[ 436 U.S. Page 313]

     regulatory standards. It therefore appears that unless some recognized exception to the warrant requirement applies, See v. Seattle would require a warrant to conduct the inspection sought in this case.

The Secretary urges that an exception from the search warrant requirement has been recognized for "pervasively regulated [businesses]," United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, 316 (1972), and for "closely regulated" industries "long subject to close supervision and inspection." Colonnade Catering Corp. v. United States, 397 U.S. 72, 74, 77 (1970). These cases are indeed exceptions, but they represent responses to relatively unique circumstances. Certain industries have such a history of government oversight that no reasonable expectation of privacy, see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351-352 (1967), could exist for a proprietor over the stock of such an enterprise. Liquor (Colonnade) and firearms (Biswell) are industries of this type; when an entrepreneur embarks upon such a business, he has voluntarily chosen to subject himself to a full arsenal of governmental regulation.

Industries such as these fall within the "certain carefully defined classes of cases," referenced in Camara, 387 U.S., at 528. The element that distinguishes these enterprises from ordinary businesses is a long tradition of close government supervision, of which any person who chooses to enter such a business must already be aware. "A central difference between those cases [ Colonnade and Biswell ] and this one is that businessmen engaged in such federally licensed and regulated enterprises accept the burdens as well as the benefits of their trade, whereas the petitioner here was not engaged in any regulated or licensed business. The businessman in a regulated industry in effect consents to the restrictions placed upon him." Almeida-Sanchez v. United States, 413 U.S. 266, 271 (1973).

The clear import of our cases is that the closely regulated industry of the type involved in Colonnade and Biswell is the exception. The Secretary would make it the rule. Invoking

[ 436 U.S. Page 314]

     the Walsh-Healey Act of 1936, 41 U. S. C. § 35 et seq., the Secretary attempts to support a conclusion that all businesses involved in interstate commerce have long been subjected to close supervision of employee safety and health conditions. But the degree of federal involvement in employee working circumstances has never been of the order of specificity and pervasiveness that OSHA mandates. It is quite unconvincing to argue that the imposition of minimum wages and maximum hours on employers who contracted with the Government under the Walsh-Healey Act prepared the entirety of American interstate commerce for regulation of working conditions to the minutest detail. Nor can any but the most fictional sense of voluntary consent to later searches be found in the single fact that one conducts a business affecting interstate commerce; under current practice and law, few businesses can be conducted without having some effect on interstate commerce.

The Secretary also attempts to derive support for a Colonnade-Biswell -type exception by drawing analogies from the field of labor law. In Republic Aviation Corp. v. NLRB, 324 U.S. 793 (1945), this Court upheld the rights of employees to solicit for a union during non-working time where efficiency was not compromised. By opening up his property to employees, the employer had yielded so much of his private property rights as to allow those employees to exercise § 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act. But this Court also held that the private property rights of an owner prevailed over the intrusion of non-employee organizers, even in non-working areas of the plant and during non-working hours. NLRB v. Babcock & Wilcox Co., 351 U.S. 105 (1956).

The critical fact in this case is that entry over Mr. Barlow's objection is being sought by a Government agent.*fn8 Employees

[ 436 U.S. Page 315]

     are not being prohibited from reporting OSHA violations. What they observe in their daily functions is undoubtedly beyond the employer's reasonable expectation of privacy. The Government inspector, however, is not an employee. Without a warrant he stands in no better position than a member of the public. What is observable by the public is observable, without a warrant, by the Government inspector as well.*fn9 The owner of a business has not, by the necessary utilization of employees in his operation, thrown open the areas where employees alone are permitted to the warrantless scrutiny of Government agents. That an employee is free to report, and the Government is free to use, any evidence of noncompliance with OSHA that the employee observes furnishes no justification for federal agents to enter a place of business from which the public is restricted and to conduct their own warrantless search.*fn10


[ 436 U.S. Page 316]

     The Secretary nevertheless stoutly argues that the enforcement scheme of the Act requires warrantless searches, and that the restrictions on search discretion contained in the Act and its regulations already protect as much privacy as a warrant would. The Secretary thereby asserts the actual reasonableness of OSHA searches, whatever the general rule against warrantless searches might be. Because "reasonableness is still the ultimate standard," Camara v. Municipal Page 316} Court, 387 U.S., at 539, the Secretary suggests that the Court decide whether a warrant is needed by arriving at a sensible balance between the administrative necessities of OSHA inspections and the incremental protection of privacy of business owners a warrant would afford. He suggests that only a decision exempting OSHA inspections from the Warrant Clause would give "full recognition to the competing public and private interests here at stake." Ibid.

The Secretary submits that warrantless inspections are essential to the proper enforcement of OSHA because they afford the opportunity to inspect without prior notice and hence to preserve the advantages of surprise. While the dangerous conditions outlawed by the Act include structural defects that cannot be quickly hidden or remedied, the Act also regulates a myriad of safety details that may be amenable to speedy alteration or disguise. The risk is that during the interval between an inspector's initial request to search a plant and his procuring a warrant following the owner's refusal of permission, violations of this latter type could be corrected and thus escape the inspector's notice. To the suggestion that warrants may be issued ex parte and executed without delay and without prior notice, thereby preserving the element of surprise, the Secretary expresses concern for the administrative strain that would be experienced by the inspection system, and by the courts, should ex parte warrants issued in advance become standard practice.

We are unconvinced, however, that requiring warrants to inspect will impose serious burdens on the inspection system or the courts, will prevent inspections necessary to enforce the statute, or will make them less effective. In the first place, the great majority of businessmen can be expected in normal course to consent to inspection without warrant; the Secretary has not brought to this Court's attention any widespread pattern of refusal.*fn11 In those cases where an owner does insist

[ 436 U.S. Page 317]

     on a warrant, the Secretary argues that inspection efficiency will be impeded by the advance notice and delay. The Act's penalty provisions for giving advance notice of a search, 29 U. S. C. § 666 (f), and the Secretary's own regulations, 29 CFR § 1903.6 (1977), indicate that surprise searches are indeed contemplated. However, the Secretary has also promulgated a regulation providing that upon refusal to permit an inspector to enter the property or to complete his inspection, the inspector shall attempt to ascertain the reasons for the refusal and report to his superior, who shall "promptly take appropriate action, including compulsory process, if necessary." 29 CFR § 1903.4 (1977).*fn12 The regulation represents a choice to proceed

[ 436 U.S. Page 318]

     by process where entry is refused; and on the basis of evidence available from present practice, the Act's effectiveness has not been crippled by providing those owners who wish to refuse an initial requested entry with a time lapse while the inspector obtains the necessary process.*fn13 Indeed, the kind of process sought in this case and apparently anticipated by the regulation provides notice to the business operator.*fn14

[ 436 U.S. Page 319]

     If this safeguard endangers the efficient administration of OSHA, the Secretary should never have adopted it, particularly when the Act does not require it. Nor is it immediately

[ 436 U.S. Page 320]

     apparent why the advantages of surprise would be lost if, after being refused entry, procedures were available for the Secretary to seek an ex parte warrant and to reappear at the premises without further notice to the establishment being inspected.*fn15

Whether the Secretary proceeds to secure a warrant or other process, with or without prior notice, his entitlement to inspect will not depend on his demonstrating probable cause to believe that conditions in violation of OSHA exist on the premises. Probable cause in the criminal law sense is not required. For purposes of an administrative search such as this, probable cause justifying the issuance of a warrant may be based not only on specific evidence of an existing violation*fn16 but also on a showing that "reasonable legislative or administrative standards for conducting an . . . inspection are satisfied with respect to a particular [establishment]." Camara

[ 436 U.S. Page 321]

     v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S., at 538. A warrant showing that a specific business has been chosen for an OSHA search on the basis of a general administrative plan for the enforcement of the Act derived from neutral sources such as, for example, dispersion of employees in various types of industries across a given area, and the desired frequency of searches in any of the lesser divisions of the area, would protect an employer's Fourth Amendment rights.*fn17 We doubt that the consumption of enforcement energies in the obtaining of such warrants will exceed manageable proportions.

Finally, the Secretary urges that requiring a warrant for OSHA inspectors will mean that, as a practical matter, warrantless-search provisions in other regulatory statutes are also constitutionally infirm. The reasonableness of a warrantless search, however, will depend upon the specific enforcement needs and privacy guarantees of each statute. Some of the statutes cited apply only to a single industry, where regulations might already be so pervasive that a Colonnade-Biswell exception to the warrant requirement could apply. Some statutes already envision resort to federal-court enforcement when entry is refused, employing specific language in some cases*fn18 and general language in others.*fn19 In short, we base

[ 436 U.S. Page 322]

     today's opinion on the facts and law concerned with OSHA and do not retreat from a holding appropriate to that statute because of its real or imagined effect on other, different administrative schemes.

Nor do we agree that the incremental protections afforded the employer's privacy by a warrant are so marginal that they fail to justify the administrative burdens that may be entailed.

[ 436 U.S. Page 323]

     The authority to make warrantless searches devolves almost unbridled discretion upon executive and administrative officers, particularly those in the field, as to when to search and whom to search. A warrant, by contrast, would provide assurances from a neutral officer that the inspection is reasonable under the Constitution, is authorized by statute, and is pursuant to an administrative plan containing specific neutral criteria.*fn20 Also, a warrant would then and there advise the owner of the scope and objects of the search, beyond which limits the inspector is not expected to proceed.*fn21 These are important functions for a warrant to perform, functions which underlie the Court's prior decisions that the Warrant Clause applies to

[ 436 U.S. Page 324]

     inspections for compliance with regulatory statutes.*fn22 Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967); See v. Seattle, 387 U.S. 541 (1967). We conclude that the concerns expressed by the Secretary do not suffice to justify warrantless inspections under OSHA or vitiate the general constitutional requirement that for a search to be reasonable a warrant must be obtained.

[ 436 U.S. Page 325]


We hold that Barlow's was entitled to a declaratory judgment that the Act is unconstitutional insofar as it purports to authorize inspections without warrant or its equivalent and to an injunction enjoining the Act's enforcement to that extent.*fn23 The judgment of the District Court is therefore affirmed.

So ordered.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


424 F.Supp. 437, affirmed.


Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act to safeguard employees against hazards in the work areas of businesses subject to the Act. To ensure compliance, Congress authorized the Secretary of Labor to conduct routine, nonconsensual inspections. Today the Court holds that the Fourth Amendment prohibits such inspections without a warrant. The Court also holds that the constitutionally required warrant may be issued without any showing of probable cause. I disagree with both of these holdings.

The Fourth Amendment contains two separate Clauses, each

[ 436 U.S. Page 326]

     flatly prohibiting a category of governmental conduct. The first Clause states that the right to be free from unreasonable searches "shall not be violated";*fn1 the second unequivocally prohibits the issuance of warrants except "upon probable cause."*fn2 In this case the ultimate question is whether the category of warrantless searches authorized by the statute is "unreasonable" within the meaning of the first Clause.

In cases involving the investigation of criminal activity, the Court has held that the reasonableness of a search generally depends upon whether it was conducted pursuant to a valid warrant. See, e. g., Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443. There is, however, also a category of searches which are reasonable within the meaning of the first Clause even though the probable-cause requirement of the Warrant Clause cannot be satisfied. See United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543; Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1; South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364; United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311. The regulatory inspection program challenged in this case, in my judgment, falls within this category.


The warrant requirement is linked "textually . . . to the probable-cause concept" in the Warrant Clause. South Dakota v. Opperman, supra, at 370 n. 5. The routine OSHA inspections are, by definition, not based on cause to believe there is a violation on the premises to be inspected. Hence, if the inspections were measured against the requirements of the Warrant Clause, they would be automatically and unequivocally unreasonable.

[ 436 U.S. Page 327]

     Because of the acknowledged importance and reasonableness of routine inspections in the enforcement of federal regulatory statutes such as OSHA, the Court recognizes that requiring full compliance with the Warrant Clause would invalidate all such inspection programs. Yet, rather than simply analyzing such programs under the "Reasonableness" Clause of the Fourth Amendment, the Court holds the OSHA program invalid under the Warrant Clause and then avoids a blanket prohibition on all routine, regulatory inspections by relying on the notion that the "probable cause" requirement in the Warrant Clause may be relaxed whenever the Court believes that the governmental need to conduct a category of "searches" outweighs the intrusion on interests protected by the Fourth Amendment.

The Court's approach disregards the plain language of the Warrant Clause and is unfaithful to the balance struck by the Framers of the Fourth Amendment -- "the one procedural safeguard in the Constitution that grew directly out of the events which immediately preceded the revolutionary struggle with England."*fn3 This preconstitutional history includes the controversy in England over the issuance of general warrants to aid enforcement of the seditious libel laws and the colonial experience with writs of assistance issued to facilitate collection of the various import duties imposed by Parliament. The Framers' familiarity with the abuses attending the issuance of such general warrants provided the principal stimulus for the restraints on arbitrary governmental intrusions embodied in the Fourth Amendment.

"[Our] constitutional fathers were not concerned about warrantless searches, but about overreaching warrants. It is perhaps too much to say that they feared the warrant more than the search, but it is plain enough that the warrant was the prime object of their concern. Far from

[ 436 U.S. Page 328]

     looking at the warrant as a protection against unreasonable searches, they saw it as an authority for unreasonable and oppressive searches . . . ."*fn4

Since the general warrant, not the warrantless search, was the immediate evil at which the Fourth Amendment was directed, it is not surprising that the Framers placed precise limits on its issuance. The requirement that a warrant only issue on a showing of particularized probable cause was the means adopted to circumscribe the warrant power. While the subsequent course of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence in this Court emphasizes the dangers posed by warrantless searches conducted without probable cause, it is the general reasonableness standard in the first Clause, not the Warrant Clause, that the Framers adopted to limit this category of searches. It is, of course, true that the existence of a valid warrant normally satisfies the reasonableness requirement under the Fourth Amendment. But we should not dilute the requirements of the Warrant Clause in an effort to force every kind of governmental intrusion which satisfies the Fourth Amendment definition of a "search" into a judicially developed, warrant-preference scheme.

Fidelity to the original understanding of the Fourth Amendment, therefore, leads to the conclusion that the Warrant Clause has no application to routine, regulatory inspections of commercial premises. If such inspections are valid, it is because they comport with the ultimate reasonableness standard of the Fourth Amendment. If the Court were correct in its view that such inspections, if undertaken without a warrant, are unreasonable in the constitutional sense, the issuance of a "new-fangled warrant" -- to use Mr. Justice Clark's characteristically expressive term -- without any true showing of particularized probable cause would not be sufficient to validate them.*fn5

[ 436 U.S. Page 329]


Even if a warrant issued without probable cause were faithful to the Warrant Clause, I could not accept the Court's holding that the Government's inspection program is constitutionally unreasonable because it fails to require such a warrant procedure. In determining whether a warrant is a necessary safeguard in a given class of cases, "the Court has weighed the public interest against the Fourth Amendment interest of the individual . . . ." United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S., at 555. Several considerations persuade me that this balance should be struck in favor of the routine inspections authorized by Congress.

Congress has determined that regulation and supervision of safety in the workplace furthers an important public interest and that the power to conduct warrantless searches is necessary to accomplish the safety goals of the legislation. In assessing the public interest side of the Fourth Amendment balance, however, the Court today substitutes its judgment for that of Congress on the question of what inspection authority is needed to effectuate the purposes of the Act. The Court states that if surprise is truly an important ingredient of an effective, representative inspection program, it can be retained by obtaining ex parte warrants in advance. The Court assures the Secretary that this will not unduly burden enforcement resources because most employers will consent to inspection.

The Court's analysis does not persuade me that Congress' determination that the warrantless-inspection power as a necessary adjunct of the exercise of the regulatory power is unreasonable. It was surely not unreasonable to conclude that the rate at which employers deny entry to inspectors would increase if covered businesses, which may have safety violations on their premises, have a right to deny warrantless entry to a compliance inspector. The Court is correct that this problem could be avoided by requiring inspectors to obtain a warrant prior to every inspection visit. But the adoption of

[ 436 U.S. Page 330]

     such a practice undercuts the Court's explanation of why a warrant requirement would not create undue enforcement problems. For, even if it were true that many employers would not exercise their right to demand a warrant, it would provide little solace to those charged with administration of OSHA; faced with an increase in the rate of refusals and the added costs generated by futile trips to inspection sites where entry is denied, officials may be compelled to adopt a general practice of obtaining warrants in advance. While the Court's prediction of the effect a warrant requirement would have on the behavior of covered employers may turn out to be accurate, its judgment is essentially empirical. On such an issue, I would defer to Congress' judgment regarding the importance of a warrantless-search power to the OSHA enforcement scheme.

The Court also appears uncomfortable with the notion of second-guessing Congress and the Secretary on the question of how the substantive goals of OSHA can best be achieved. Thus, the Court offers an alternative explanation for its refusal to accept the legislative judgment. We are told that, in any event, the Secretary, who is charged with enforcement of the Act, has indicated that inspections without delay are not essential to the enforcement scheme. The Court bases this conclusion on a regulation prescribing the administrative response when a compliance inspector is denied entry. It provides: "The Area Director shall immediately consult with the Assistant Regional Director and the Regional Solicitor, who shall promptly take appropriate action, including compulsory process, if necessary." 29 CFR § 1903.4 (1977). The Court views this regulation as an admission by the Secretary that no enforcement problem is generated by permitting employers to deny entry and delaying the inspection until a warrant has been obtained. I disagree. The regulation was promulgated against the background of a statutory right to immediate entry, of which covered employers are presumably

[ 436 U.S. Page 331]

     aware and which Congress and the Secretary obviously thought would keep denials of entry to a minimum. In these circumstances, it was surely not unreasonable for the Secretary to adopt an orderly procedure for dealing with what he believed would be the occasional denial of entry. The regulation does not imply a judgment by the Secretary that delay caused by numerous denials of entry would be administratively acceptable.

Even if a warrant requirement does not "frustrate" the legislative purpose, the Court has no authority to impose an additional burden on the Secretary unless that burden is required to protect the employer's Fourth Amendment interests.*fn6 The essential function of the traditional warrant requirement is the interposition of a neutral magistrate between the citizen and the presumably zealous law enforcement officer so that there might be an objective determination of probable cause. But this purpose is not served by the newfangled inspection warrant. As the Court acknowledges, the inspector's "entitlement to inspect will not depend on his demonstrating probable cause to believe that conditions in violation of OSHA exist on the premises. . . . For purposes of an administrative search such as this, probable cause justifying the issuance of a warrant may be based . . . on a showing that 'reasonable legislative or administrative standards for conducting an . . . inspection are satisfied with respect to a particular [establishment].'" Ante, at 320. To obtain a warrant, the inspector need only show that "a specific business has been chosen for an OSHA search on the basis of a general administrative plan for the enforcement of the Act derived

[ 436 U.S. Page 332]

     from neutral sources . . . ." Ante, at 321. Thus, the only question for the magistrate's consideration is whether the contemplated inspection deviates from an inspection schedule drawn up by higher level agency officials.

Unlike the traditional warrant, the inspection warrant provides no protection against the search itself for employers who the Government has no reason to suspect are violating OSHA regulations. The Court plainly accepts the proposition that random health and safety inspections are reasonable. It does not question Congress' determination that the public interest in workplaces free from health and safety hazards outweighs the employer's desire to conduct his business only in the presence of permittees, except in those rare instances when the Government has probable cause to suspect that the premises harbor a violation of the law.

What purposes, then, are served by the administrative warrant procedure? The inspection warrant purports to serve three functions: to inform the employer that the inspection is authorized by the statute, to advise him of the lawful limits of the inspection, and to assure him that the person demanding entry is an authorized inspector. Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 532. An examination of these functions in the OSHA context reveals that the inspection warrant adds little to the protections already afforded by the statute and pertinent regulations, and the slight additional benefit it might provide is insufficient to identify a constitutional violation or to justify overriding Congress' judgment that the power to conduct warrantless inspections is essential.

The inspection warrant is supposed to assure the employer that the inspection is in fact routine, and that the inspector has not improperly departed from the program of representative inspections established by responsible officials. But to the extent that harassment inspections would be reduced by the necessity of obtaining a warrant, the Secretary's present enforcement scheme would have precisely the same effect.

[ 436 U.S. Page 333]

     The representative inspections are conducted "'in accordance with criteria based upon accident experience and the number of employees exposed in particular industries.'" Ante, at 321 n. 17. If, under the present scheme, entry to covered premises is denied, the inspector can gain entry only by informing his administrative superiors of the refusal and seeking a court order requiring the employer to submit to the inspection. The inspector who would like to conduct a non-routine search is just as likely to be deterred by the prospect of informing his superiors of his intention and of making false representations to the court when he seeks compulsory process as by the prospect of having to make bad-faith representations in an ex parte warrant proceeding.

The other two asserted purposes of the administrative warrant are also adequately achieved under the existing scheme. If the employer has doubts about the official status of the inspector, he is given adequate opportunity to reassure himself in this regard before permitting entry. The OSHA inspector's statutory right to enter the premises is conditioned upon the presentation of appropriate credentials. 29 U. S. C. § 657 (a)(1). These credentials state the inspector's name, identify him as an OSHA compliance officer, and contain his photograph and signature. If the employer still has doubts, he may make a toll-free call to verify the inspector's authority, Usery v. Godfrey Brake & Supply Service, Inc., 545 F.2d 52, 54 (CA8 1976), or simply deny entry and await the presentation of a court order.

The warrant is not needed to inform the employer of the lawful limits of an OSHA inspection. The statute expressly provides that the inspector may enter all areas in a covered business "where work is performed by an employee of an employer," 29 U. S. C. § 657 (a)(1), "to inspect and investigate during regular working hours and at other reasonable times, and within reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner . . . all pertinent conditions, structures, machines, apparatus,

[ 436 U.S. Page 334]

     devices, equipment, and materials therein . . . ." 29 U. S. C. § 657 (a)(2). See also 29 CFR § 1903 (1977). While it is true that the inspection power granted by Congress is broad, the warrant procedure required by the Court does not purport to restrict this power but simply to ensure that the employer is apprised of its scope. Since both the statute and the pertinent regulations perform this informational function, a warrant is superfluous.

Requiring the inspection warrant, therefore, adds little in the way of protection to that already provided under the existing enforcement scheme. In these circumstances, the warrant is essentially a formality. In view of the obviously enormous cost of enforcing a health and safety scheme of the dimensions of OSHA, this Court should not, in the guise of construing the Fourth Amendment, require formalities which merely place an additional strain on already overtaxed federal resources.

Congress, like this Court, has an obligation to obey the mandate of the Fourth Amendment. In the past the Court "has been particularly sensitive to the Amendment's broad standard of 'reasonableness' where . . . authorizing statutes permitted the challenged searches." Almeida-Sanchez v. United States, 413 U.S. 266, 290 (WHITE, J., dissenting). In United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, for example, respondents challenged the routine stopping of vehicles to check for aliens at permanent checkpoints located away from the border. The checkpoints were established pursuant to statutory authority and their location and operation were governed by administrative criteria. The Court rejected respondents' argument that the constitutional reasonableness of the location and operation of the fixed checkpoints should be reviewed in a Camara warrant proceeding. The Court observed that the reassuring purposes of the inspection warrant were adequately served by the visible manifestations of authority exhibited at the fixed checkpoints.

[ 436 U.S. Page 335]

     Moreover, although the location and method of operation of the fixed checkpoints were deemed critical to the constitutional reasonableness of the challenged stops, the Court did not require Border Patrol officials to obtain a warrant based on a showing that the checkpoints were located and operated in accordance with administrative standards. Indeed, the Court observed that "[the] choice of checkpoint locations must be left largely to the discretion of Border Patrol officials, to be exercised in accordance with statutes and regulations that may be applicable . . . [and] [many] incidents of checkpoint operation also must be committed to the discretion of such officials." 428 U.S., at 559-560, n. 13. The Court had no difficulty assuming that those officials responsible for allocating limited enforcement resources would be "unlikely to locate a checkpoint where it bears arbitrarily or oppressively on motorists as a class." Id., at 559.

The Court's recognition of Congress' role in balancing the public interest advanced by various regulatory statutes and the private interest in being free from arbitrary governmental intrusion has not been limited to situations in which, for example, Congress is exercising its special power to exclude aliens. Until today, we have not rejected a congressional judgment concerning the reasonableness of a category of regulatory inspections of commercial premises.*fn7 While businesses are unquestionably entitled to Fourth Amendment protection, we have "recognized that a business, by its special nature and voluntary existence, may open itself to intrusions that would not be permissible in a purely private context."

[ 436 U.S. Page 336]

     G. M. Leasing Corp. v. United States, 429 U.S. 338, 353. Thus, in Colonnade Catering Corp. v. United States, 397 U.S. 72, the Court recognized the reasonableness of a statutory authorization to inspect the premises of a caterer dealing in alcoholic beverages, noting that "Congress has broad power to design such powers of inspection under the liquor laws as it deems necessary to meet the evils at hand." Id., at 76. And in United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311, the Court sustained the authority to conduct warrantless searches of firearm dealers under the Gun Control Act of 1968 primarily on the basis of the reasonableness of the congressional evaluation of the interests at stake.*fn8

The Court, however, concludes that the deference accorded Congress in Biswell and Colonnade should be limited to situations where the evils addressed by the regulatory statute are peculiar to a specific industry and that industry is one which has long been subject to Government regulation. The Court reasons that only in those situations can it be said that a person who engages in business will be aware of and consent to routine, regulatory inspections. I cannot agree that the respect due the congressional judgment should be so narrowly confined.

In the first place, the longevity of a regulatory program does not, in my judgment, have any bearing on the reasonableness of routine inspections necessary to achieve adequate enforcement of that program. Congress' conception of what constitute

[ 436 U.S. Page 337]

     urgent federal interests need not remain static. The recent vintage of public and congressional awareness of the dangers posed by health and safety hazards in the workplace is not a basis for according less respect to the considered judgment of Congress. Indeed, in Biswell, the Court upheld an inspection program authorized by a regulatory statute enacted in 1968. The Court there noted that "[federal] regulation of the interstate traffic in firearms is not as deeply rooted in history as is governmental control of the liquor industry, but close scrutiny of this traffic is undeniably" an urgent federal interest. 406 U.S., at 315. Thus, the critical fact is the congressional determination that federal regulation would further significant public interests, not the date that determination was made.

In the second place, I see no basis for the Court's conclusion that a congressional determination that a category of regulatory inspections is reasonable need only be respected when Congress is legislating on an industry-by-industry basis. The pertinent inquiry is not whether the inspection program is authorized by a regulatory statute directed at a single industry, but whether Congress has limited the exercise of the inspection power to those commercial premises where the evils at which the statute is directed are to be found. Thus, in Biswell, if Congress had authorized inspections of all commercial premises as a means of restricting the illegal traffic in firearms, the Court would have found the inspection program unreasonable; the power to inspect was upheld because it was tailored to the subject matter of Congress' proper exercise of regulatory power. Similarly, OSHA is directed at health and safety hazards in the workplace, and the inspection power granted the Secretary extends only to those areas where such hazards are likely to be found.

Finally, the Court would distinguish the respect accorded Congress' judgment in Colonnade and Biswell on the ground that businesses engaged in the liquor and firearms industry "'accept the burdens as well as the benefits of their trade . . . .'"

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     have regular access without any suggestion that the work performed or the equipment used has any special claim to confidentiality.*fn10 Congress has determined that industrial safety is an urgent federal interest requiring regulation and supervision, and further, that warrantless inspections are necessary to accomplish the safety goals of the legislation. While one may question the wisdom of pervasive governmental oversight of industrial life, I decline to question Congress' judgment that the inspection power is a necessary enforcement device in achieving the goals of a valid exercise of regulatory power.*fn11

I respectfully dissent.


* Warren Spannaus, Attorney General of Minnesota, Richard B. Allyn, Solicitor General, and Steven M. Gunn and Richard A. Lockridge, Special Assistant Attorneys General, filed a brief for 11 States as amici curiae urging reversal, joined by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Frank J. Kelley of Michigan, William F. Hyland of New Jersey, Toney Anaya of New Mexico, Rufus Edmisten of North Carolina, Robert P. Kane of Pennsylvania, Daniel R. McLeod of South Carolina, M. Jerome Diamond of Vermont, Anthony F. Troy of Virginia, and V. Frank Mendicino of Wyoming. Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by J. Albert Woll and Laurence Gold for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; and by Michael R. Sherwood for the Sierra Club et al.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by Wayne L. Kidwell, Attorney General of Idaho, and Guy G. Hurlbutt, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Robert B. Hansen, Attorney General of Utah, and Michael L. Deamer, Deputy Attorney General, for the States of Idaho and Utah; by Allen A. Lauterbach for the American Farm Bureau Federation; by Robert T. Thompson, Lawrence Kraus, and Stanley T. Kaleczyc for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States; by Anthony J. Obadal, Steven R. Semler, Stephen C. Yohay, Leonard J. Theberge, Edward H. Dowd, and James Watt for the Mountain States Legal Foundation; by James D. McKevitt for the National Federation of Independent Business; and by Ronald A. Zumbrun, John H. Findley, Albert Ferri, Jr., and W. Hugh O'Riordan for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed by Robert E. Rader, Jr., for the American Conservative Union; and by David Goldberger, Barbara O'Toole, McNeill Stokes, Ira J. Smotherman, Jr., and David Rudenstine for the Roger Baldwin Foundation, Inc., of the American Civil Liberties Union, Illinois Division.

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