Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ninth Circuit Limits Corporate Executives From Challenging a Search

In a recent decision of the Ninth Circuit, U.S. v. SDI Future Health Inc.  the court decided "whether corporate executives may challenge a police search of company premises not reserved for the executives' exclusive use."  As stated by the court, "While '[i]t has long been settled that one has standing to object to a search of his office, as well as of his home,' Mancusi v. DeForte, 392 U.S. 364, 369 (1968), this case presents the novel issue of the extent to which a business employee may have standing to challenge a search of business premises generally."  The court stated:

"we conclude that, except in the case of a small, family-run business over which an individual exercises daily management and control, an individual challenging a search of workplace areas beyond his own internal office must generally show some personal connection to the places searched and the materials seized. To adapt Anderson, although all the circumstances remain relevant, we will specifically determine the strength of such personal connection with reference to the following factors: (1) whether the item seized is personal property or otherwise kept in a private place separate from other work-related material; (2) whether the defendant had custody or immediate control of the item when officers seized it; and (3) whether the defendant took precautions on his own behalf to secure the place searched or things seized from any interference without his authorization. Absent such a personal connection or exclusive use, a defendant cannot establish standing for Fourth Amendment purposes to challenge the search of a workplace beyond his internal office."

In applying the standard the court stressed "that particularity and overbreadth remain two distinct parts of the evaluation of a warrant for Fourth Amendment purposes."  The court held in this particular case "that five of the twenty-five categories of materials listed in the search warrant were unconstitutionally overbroad and that no exception rescues them from suppression."


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