SW Legal studies in Business

Same Rights Do Not Apply to Administrative Search Warrants as to Criminal Warrants

Appeals court held that the standards for administrative search warrants are different than for criminal warrants. A party subject to an administrative warrant has no constitutional right to challenge the warrant in court before the warrant is executed.

Topic Administrative Law
Key Words

Search Warrant; Hearing; OSHA

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

OSHA visited Trinity Marine’s facility to conduct an inspection. Trinity denied entrance to the inspectors. A month later, the inspectors returned with an administrative search warrant issued by a U.S. magistrate judge. Trinity again refused entrance. The inspectors called an Assistant U.S. Attorney who advised Trinity to grant entrance or a federal marshal would be sent to force entry. Trinity responded that it could contest the warrant and there could be no force used to execute the warrant. Marshals told Trinity if the inspectors were not let it, they would arrest Trinity officials. The inspectors were then admitted, but arguments continued. Trinity filed a motion in federal court to enjoin the inspection, contending that OSHA did not have probable cause to obtain a warrant. OSHA contended that once the warrant was issued, Trinity had to exhaust its administrative remedies before it could go to court. The administrative law judge held that the warrant was proper; the Occupation Safety and Health Review Commission agreed. Trinity petitioned for a review of that order.


Petition denied. Administrative search warrants issued to OSHA differ from traditional criminal warrants in that the exhaustion-of-administrative-remedies doctrine applies, meaning that an employer who wishes to challenge a warrant cannot immediately file a motion in district court to suppress the evidence after the warrant has been executed. An employer has no constitutional right to a contempt hearing to challenge an administrative warrant prior to a search. There was no violation of any rights when the marshals forced Trinity to allow an inspection.


Trinity Marine Products, Inc. v. Chao, 512 F.3d 198 (5th Cir., 2007)

Back to Administrative Law Listings

©1997-2008  SW Legal Studies in Business. All Rights Reserved.