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Camara v. Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 387 U.S. 523, 87 S. Ct. 1727, 18 L. Ed. 2d 930 (1967)

Brief Fact Summary. An inspector from the Department of Health entered a home to investigate possible violations of a City’s housing code without a warrant.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. “[A]dministrative searches of the kind at issue here are significant intrusions upon the interests protected by the Fourth Amendment, that such searches when authorized and conducted without a warrant procedure lack the traditional safeguards which the Fourth Amendment guarantees to the individual, and that the reasons put forth in [Frank v. Maryland] and in other cases for upholding these warrantless searches are insufficient to justify so substantial a weakening of the Fourth Amendment’s protections.”


Facts. “On November 6, 1963, an inspector of the Division of Housing Inspection of the San Francisco Department of Public Health entered an apartment building to make a routine annual inspection for possible violations of the city’s Housing Code.” The inspector was informed that the Appellant was using part of his leasehold as a personal residence. The inspector confronted the Appellant and demanded to inspect the premises because residential use was not allowed on the first floor of the apartment building. The Appellant did not allow the inspector to enter because he did not have a warrant.
The inspector attempted to obtain access to Appellant’s apartment a second time two days later, and again the Appellant refused to grant him access. The Appellant then was sent a summons ordering him to appear at the district attorney’s office. The Appellant did not appear and a few weeks later two other inspectors attempted to gain access to his apartment and were again refused because they did not have a search warrant.
A complaint was then filed against the Appellant for violation of the Housing Code. His demurrer was denied and he filed a writ of prohibition. The court of Appeals held the housing section “does not violate Fourth Amendment rights because it ‘is part of a regulatory scheme which is essentially civil rather than criminal in nature, inasmuch as that section creates a right of inspection which is limited in scope and may not be exercised under unreasonable conditions.’ ”

Issue. “[W]hether administrative inspection programs, as presently authorized and conducted, violate Fourth Amendment rights as those rights are enforced against the States through the Fourteenth Amendment?”

Content Type: Brief


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