When law enforcement and/or code enforcement come into your business to enforce unconstitutional covid restrictions, or even duly enacted criminal statutes, can you kick them out? Do they need a warrant?
One of the issues I’ll be litigating against the West Virginia Governor tomorrow morning in federal court, is whether his mask mandate and threats of arrest and business closure are unconstitutional because they order and encourage violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The Supreme Court long has recognized that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is applicable to commercial premises, as well as to private homes. See v. City of Seattle, 387 U.S. 541, 543, 546, 87 S.Ct. 1737, 1739 1741, 18 L.Ed.2d 943 (1967). An owner or operator of a business thus has an expectation of privacy in commercial property, which society is prepared to consider to be reasonable, see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 361, 88 S.Ct. 507, 516, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967) (Harlan, J., concurring). This expectation exists not only with respect to traditional police searches conducted for the gathering of criminal evidence but also with respect to administrative inspections designed to enforce regulatory statutes. See Marshall v. Barlow’s, Inc., 436 U.S. 307, 312-313, 98 S.Ct. 1816, 1820-1821, 56 L.Ed.2d 305 (1978).
There may be some exceptions for heavily regulated business, such as coal mines. In Lesueur-Richmond Slate Corp. v. Fehrer, 666 F.3d 261 (4th Cir. 2012), the Fourth Circuit held that public officials may conduct warrantless searches of coal mines in Virginia, pursuant to the authorization to do so in Virginia’s Mineral Mine Safety Act, Va. Code Ann. 45.1-161.292:54(B), only because mining is a “heavily regulated industry” and because “certain conditions are met.” These conditions, set forth in the Supreme Court case of New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 691, 107 S.Ct. 2636 (1987), require that such an inspection program “provide a constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant.” Id. at 702. The Fourth Circuit applied the Supreme Court’s holding in New York v. Burger, requiring a statutory program in place to be subjected to analysis. See generally, New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 691, 107 S.Ct. 2636, 96 L.Ed.2d 601 (1987). This could, and probably does, create an issue area around restaurant regulation. We shall see…..