OH8: Administrative PC shown for sewer water search

The city justified issuance of an administrative warrant for investigation of sewer water contamination under Camara. Administrative probable cause was shown, and the search was reasonable. Dawson v. City of Richmond Heights, 2018-Ohio-1301, 2018 Ohio App. LEXIS 1440 (8th Dist. Apr. 6, 2018):

[*P16] The Fourth Amendment protections extend to administrative searches. Camara v. Mun. Court of San Francisco, 387 U.S. 523, 534, 87 S.Ct. 1727, 18 L.Ed.2d 930 (1967). The need for an administrative search warrant arises where a search must be undertaken as part of an effort “aimed at securing city-wide compliance with minimum physical standards for private property” or where “[t]he primary governmental interest at stake is to prevent even the unintentional development of conditions which are hazardous to public health and safety.” Id. at 535.

[*P17] These types of search warrants, however, are not subject to the same stringent probable cause requirement as criminal search warrants. Id. at 534-535. Rather, the evidence of a specific violation required to establish administrative probable cause must “show that the proposed inspection is based upon a reasonable belief that a violation has been or is being committed.” W. Point-Pepperell, Inc. v. Donovan, 689 F.2d 950, 958 (11th Cir.1982). Probable cause with respect to the issuance of an administrative warrant to enter and inspect premises is subject to a flexible standard of reasonableness involving the agency’s particular demand for access and the public need for effective enforcement of the regulation involved. State v. Finnell, 115 Ohio App.3d 583, 589, 685 N.E.2d 1267 (1st Dist.1996), citing See v. Seattle, 387 U.S. 541, 18 L.Ed.2d 943, 87 S.Ct. 1737 (1967).

[*P18] HN9 R.C. 2933.21(F) permits a judge to issue warrants permitting a search for existing or potential physical conditions hazardous to the public health, safety, or welfare. Therefore, the municipal court judge could properly consider the conditions of the Dawsons’ property, as well as the conditions of surrounding neighborhood properties, to determine whether probable cause existed to believe that conditions on their property were or could become hazardous to the public health, safety, or welfare.

[*P19] Here, the trial court found, and we agree, that the search warrant was based on probable cause and in compliance with R.C. Chapter 2933. Seyboldt’s affidavit and accompanying documents provided the court with information about testing performed in the area, results of those tests, general information explaining the cause for backups in the area, evidence that the backups continued to persist from May 2011 through January 2013, and evidence that the Dawsons’ property was one of the few remaining properties in the area that had not been tested. Additionally, the record demonstrates that Seyboldt kept on file with the Building Department a copy of the report of the conditions of the Dawsons’ property, as required by R.C. 2933.24(B)

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