436 U.S. 307 (1978), argued 9 Jan. 1978, decided 23 May 1978 by vote of 5 to 3; White for the Court, Blackmun and Stevens in dissent joined by Rehnquist, Brennan not participating. This case involved the constitutionality of a provision in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) that permitted inspectors to enter premises without a warrant to inspect for safety hazards and violation of OSHA regulations. The Court held that this provision violated the Fourth Amendment.
One issue was whether a warrant was required. The Court had previously held that no warrant was required to inspect either the premises of a liquor licensee or a licensed gun dealer's storeroom. Distinguishing these earlier cases because each concerned a closely regulated industry, the Court in Barlow's concluded that requiring warrants in the OSHA context would not “impose serious burdens on the inspection system or the courts” (p. 316).
As for the grounds to obtain an inspection warrant, Barlow's follows the rule in Camara v. Municipal Court (1967) that traditional probable cause is unnecessary if the authorities can show that the contemplated inspection conforms to “reasonable legislative or administrative standards” (p. 538). Thus the Court in Barlow's concluded that 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” (p. 321) would suffice, for it would ensure against arbitrary selection of employers.
Wayne R. LaFave