New York v. BurgerAnnotate this Case
482 U.S. 691 (1987)
U.S. Supreme Court
New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 691 (1987)
New York v. Burger
Argued February 23, 1987
Decided June 19, 1987
482 U.S. 691
CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK
Respondent junkyard owner's business consists, in part, of dismantling automobiles and selling their parts. Pursuant to a New York statute authorizing warrantless inspections of automobile junkyards, police officers entered his junkyard and asked to see his license and records as to automobiles and vehicle parts in his possession. He replied that he did not have such documents, which are required by the statute. After announcing their intention to conduct an inspection of the junkyard pursuant to the statute, the officers, without objection by respondent, conducted the inspection and discovered stolen vehicles and parts. Respondent, who was charged with possession of stolen property and unregistered operation as a vehicle dismantler, moved in state court to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the inspection, primarily on the ground that the administrative inspection statute was unconstitutional. The court denied the motion, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The New York Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the statute violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.
1. A business owner's expectation of privacy in commercial property is attenuated with respect to commercial property employed in a "closely regulated" industry. Where the owner's privacy interests are weakened and the government interests in regulating particular businesses are concomitantly heightened, a warrantless inspection of commercial premises, if it meets certain criteria, is reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 482 U. S. 699-703.
2. Searches made pursuant to the New York statute fall within the exception to the warrant requirement for administrative inspections of "closely regulated" businesses. Pp. 482 U. S. 703-712.
(a) The nature of the statute establishes that the operation of a junkyard, part of which is devoted to vehicle dismantling, is a "closely regulated" business. Although the duration of a particular regulatory scheme has some relevancy, and New York's scheme regulating vehicle dismantlers can be said to be of fairly recent vintage, nevertheless, because widespread use of the automobile is relatively new, automobile junkyards and vehicle dismantlers have not been in existence very long, and thus do not have an ancient history of government oversight.
Moreover, the automobile junkyard business is simply a new branch of an industry -- general junkyards and secondhand shops -- that has existed, and has been closely regulated in New York, for many years. Pp. 482 U. S. 703-707.
(b) New York's regulatory scheme satisfies the criteria necessary to make reasonable the warrantless inspections conducted pursuant to the inspection statute. First, the State has a substantial interest in regulating the vehicle-dismantling and automobile junkyard industry because motor vehicle theft has increased in the State and because the problem of theft is associated with such industry. Second, regulation of the industry reasonably serves the State's substantial interest in eradicating automobile theft, and warrantless administrative inspections pursuant to the statute are necessary to further the regulatory scheme. Third, the statute provides a constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant. It informs a business operator that regular inspections will be made, and also sets forth the scope of the inspection, notifying him as to how to comply with the statute and as to who is authorized to conduct an inspection. Moreover, the "time, place, and scope" of the inspection is limited to impose appropriate restraints upon the inspecting officers' discretion. Pp. 482 U. S. 708-712.
3. The New York inspection statute does not violate the Fourth Amendment on the ground that it was designed simply to give the police an expedient means of enforcing penal sanctions for possession of stolen property. A State can address a major social problem both by way of an administrative scheme -- setting forth rules to guide an operator's conduct of its business and allowing government officials to ensure that such rules are followed -- and through penal sanctions. Cf. United States v. Biswell,406 U. S. 311. New York's statute was designed to contribute to the regulatory goals of ensuring that vehicle dismantlers are legitimate businesspersons and that stolen vehicles and vehicle parts passing through automobile junkyards can be identified. Nor is the administrative scheme unconstitutional simply because, in the course of enforcing it, an inspecting officer may discover evidence of crimes, besides violations of the scheme itself. Moreover, there is no constitutional significance in the fact that police officers, rather than "administrative" agents, are permitted to conduct the administrative inspection. So long as a regulatory scheme is properly administrative, it is not rendered illegal by the fact that the inspecting officer has the power to arrest individuals for violations other than those created by the scheme itself. Pp. 482 U. S. 712-718.
67 N.Y.2d 338, 493 N.E.2d 926, reversed and remanded.
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, STEVENS, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, and in all but Part III of which O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 482 U. S. 718.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether the warrantless search of an automobile junkyard, conducted pursuant to a statute authorizing such a search, falls within the exception to the warrant requirement for administrative inspections of pervasively regulated industries. The case also presents the question whether an otherwise proper administrative inspection is unconstitutional because the ultimate purpose of the regulatory statute pursuant to which the search is done -- the deterrence of criminal behavior -- is the same as that of penal laws, with the result that the inspection may disclose violations not only of the regulatory statute but also of the penal statutes.
Respondent Joseph Burger is the owner of a junkyard in Brooklyn, N.Y. His business consists, in part, of the dismantling of automobiles and the selling of their parts. His junkyard is an open lot with no buildings. A high metal fence surrounds it, wherein are located, among other things, vehicles and parts of vehicles. At approximately noon on November 17, 1982, Officer Joseph Vega and four other plainclothes officers, all members of the Auto Crimes Division of the New York City Police Department, entered respondent's
junkyard to conduct an inspection pursuant to N.Y.Veh. & Traf.Law § 415-a5 (McKinney 1986). [Footnote 1] Tr. 6. On any given day, the Division conducts from 5 to 10 inspections of vehicle dismantlers, automobile junkyards, and related businesses. [Footnote 2] Id. at 26.
Upon entering the junkyard, the officers asked to see Burger's license [Footnote 3] and his "police book" -- the record of the automobiles
and vehicle parts in his possession. Burger replied that he had neither a license nor a police book. [Footnote 4] The officers then announced their intention to conduct a § 415-a5 inspection. Burger did not object. Tr. 6, 47. In accordance with their practice, the officers copied down the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) of several vehicles and parts of vehicles that were in the junkyard. Id. at 7, 20, 44, 46. After checking these numbers against a police computer, the officers determined that respondent was in possession of stolen vehicles and parts. [Footnote 5] Accordingly, Burger was arrested and charged with five counts of possession of stolen property [Footnote 6]
and one count of unregistered operation as a vehicle dismantler, in violation of § 415-a1.
In the Kings County Supreme Court, Burger moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the inspection, primarily on the ground that § 415-a5 was unconstitutional. After a hearing, the court denied the motion. It reasoned that the junkyard business was a "pervasively regulated" industry in which warrantless administrative inspections were appropriate, that the statute was properly limited in "time, place and scope," and that, once the officers had reasonable cause to believe that certain vehicles and parts were stolen, they could arrest Burger and seize the property without a warrant. App. to Pet. for Cert. 18a-19a. When respondent moved for reconsideration in light of a recent decision of the Appellate Division, People v. Pace, 101 App.Div.2d 336, 475 N.Y.S.2d 443 (1984), aff'd, 65 N.Y.2d 684, 481 N.E.2d 250 (1985), [Footnote 7] the court granted reargument. Upon reconsideration,
the court distinguished the situation in Pace from that in the instant case. It observed that the Appellate Division in Pace did not apply § 415-as to the search in question, 125 Misc.2d 709, 711, 479 N.Y.S.2d 936, 938 (1984), and that, in any event, the police officers in that case were not conducting an administrative inspection, but were acting on the basis of recently discovered evidence that criminal activity was taking place at the automobile salvage yard. Id. at 712-714, 479 N.Y.S.2d at 939-940. The court therefore reaffirmed its earlier determination in the instant case that § 415-a5 was constitutional. [Footnote 8] For the same reasons, the Appellate Division affirmed. 112 App.Div.2d 1046, 493 N.Y.S.2d 34 (1985).
The New York Court of Appeals, however, reversed. 67 N.Y.2d 338, 493 N.E.2d 926 (1986). In its view, § 415-a5 violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. [Footnote 9] According to the Court of Appeals,
"[t]he fundamental defect [of § 415-a5] . . . is that [it] authorize[s] searches undertaken solely to uncover evidence of criminality, and not to enforce a comprehensive regulatory scheme. The asserted 'administrative schem[e]' here [is], in reality, designed simply to give the police an expedient means of enforcing penal sanctions for possession of stolen property."
Id. at 344, 493 N.E.2d at 929. In contrast to the statutes authorizing warrantless inspections whose constitutionality this Court has upheld, § 415-a5, it was said, "do[es] little more than authorize general searches, including those conducted by the police, of certain commercial premises." Ibid. To be sure, with its license and recordkeeping requirements, and with its authorization for inspections of records, § 415-a appears to be administrative in character.
"It fails to satisfy the constitutional requirements for a valid, comprehensive regulatory scheme, however, inasmuch as it permits searches, such as conducted here, of vehicles and vehicle parts notwithstanding the absence of any records against which the findings of such a search could be compared."
Id. at 344-345, 493 N.E.2d at 929-930. Accordingly, the only purpose of such searches is to determine whether a junkyard owner is storing stolen property on business premises. [Footnote 10]
Because of the important state interest in administrative schemes designed to regulate the vehicle-dismantling or automobile junkyard industry, [Footnote 11] we granted certiorari. 479 U.S. 812 (1986).
The Court long has recognized that the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is applicable to commercial premises, as well as to private homes. See v. City of Seattle,387 U. S. 541, 387 U. S. 543, 387 U. S. 546 (1967). An owner or operator of a business thus has an expectation of privacy in commercial property, which society is prepared to consider to be reasonable, see Katz v. United States,389 U. S. 347, 389 U. S. 361 (1967) (Harlan, J., concurring). This expectation
exists not only with respect to traditional police searches conducted for the gathering of criminal evidence but also with respect to administrative inspections designed to enforce regulatory statutes. See Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc.,436 U. S. 307, 436 U. S. 312-313 (1978). An expectation of privacy in commercial premises, however, is different from, and indeed less than, a similar expectation in an individual's home. See Donovan v. Dewey,452 U. S. 594, 453 U. S. 598-599 (1981). This expectation is particularly attenuated in commercial property employed in "closely regulated" industries. The Court observed in Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc.:
"Certain industries have such a history of government oversight that no reasonable expectation of privacy, see Katz v. United States,389 U. S. 347, 389 U. S. 351-352 (1967), could exist for a proprietor over the stock of such an enterprise."
436 U.S. at 436 U. S. 313.
The Court first examined the "unique" problem of inspections of "closely regulated" businesses in two enterprises that had "a long tradition of close government supervision." Ibid. In Colonnade Corp. v. United States,397 U. S. 72 (1970), it considered a warrantless search of a catering business pursuant to several federal revenue statutes authorizing the inspection of the premises of liquor dealers. Although the Court disapproved the search because the statute provided that a sanction be imposed when entry was refused, and because it did not authorize entry without a warrant as an alternative in this situation, it recognized that "the liquor industry [was] long subject to close supervision and inspection." Id. at 397 U. S. 77. We returned to this issue in United States v. Biswell,406 U. S. 311 (1972), which involved a warrantless inspection of the premises of a pawnshop operator, who was federally licensed to sell sporting weapons pursuant to the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. § 921 et seq. While noting that "[f]ederal regulation of the interstate traffic in firearms is not as deeply rooted in history as is governmental control of the liquor industry," 406 U.S. at 406 U. S. 315, we nonetheless concluded that the warrantless inspections
authorized by the Gun Control Act would "pose only limited threats to the dealer's justifiable expectations of privacy." Id. at 416 U. S. 316. We observed:
"When a dealer chooses to engage in this pervasively regulated business and to accept a federal license, he does so with the knowledge that his business records, firearms, and ammunition will be subject to effective inspection."
The "Colonnade-Biswell" doctrine, stating the reduced expectation of privacy by an owner of commercial premises in a "closely regulated" industry, has received renewed emphasis in more recent decisions. In Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., we noted its continued vitality, but declined to find that warrantless inspections, made pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 84 Stat. 1598, 29 U.S.C. § 657(a), of all businesses engaged in interstate commerce fell within the narrow focus of this doctrine. 436 U.S. at 436 U. S. 313-314. However, we found warrantless inspections made pursuant to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 91 Stat. 1290, 30 U.S.C. § 801 et seq., proper because they were of a "closely regulated" industry. Donovan v. Dewey, supra.
Indeed, in Donovan v. Dewey, we declined to limit our consideration to the length of time during which the business in question -- stone quarries -- had been subject to federal regulation. 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 605-606. We pointed out that the doctrine is essentially defined by "the pervasiveness and regularity of the federal regulation" and the effect of such regulation upon an owner's expectation of privacy. See id. at 452 U. S. 600, 452 U. S. 606. We observed, however, that "the duration of a particular regulatory scheme" would remain an "important factor" in deciding whether a warrantless inspection pursuant to the scheme is permissible. Id. at 452 U. S. 606. [Footnote 12]
Because the owner or operator of commercial premises in a "closely regulated" industry has a reduced expectation of privacy, the warrant and probable cause requirements, which fulfill the traditional Fourth Amendment standard of reasonableness for a government search, see O'Connor v. Ortega,480 U. S. 709, 480 U. S. 741 (1987) (dissenting opinion), have lessened application in this context. Rather, we conclude that, as in other situations of "special need," see New Jersey v. T.L.O.,469 U. S. 325, 469 U. S. 353 (1985) (opinion concurring in judgment), where the privacy interests of the owner are weakened and the government interests in regulating particular businesses are concomitantly heightened, a warrantless inspection of commercial premises may well be reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
This warrantless inspection, however, even in the context of a pervasively regulated business, will be deemed to be reasonable only so long as three criteria are met. First, there must be a "substantial" government interest that informs the regulatory scheme pursuant to which the inspection is made. See Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 602 ("substantial federal interest in improving the health and safety conditions in the Nation's underground and surface mines"); United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. at 406 U. S. 315 (regulation of firearms is "of central importance to federal efforts to prevent violent crime and to assist the States in regulating the firearms traffic within their borders"); Colonnade Corp. v. United States, 397 U.S. at 397 U. S. 75 (federal interest "in protecting the revenue against various types of fraud").
Second, the warrantless inspections must be "necessary to further [the] regulatory scheme." Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 600. For example, in Dewey we recognized that forcing mine inspectors to obtain a warrant before every inspection
might alert mine owners or operators to the impending inspection, thereby frustrating the purposes of the Mine Safety and Health Act -- to detect and thus to deter safety and health violations. Id. at 452 U. S. 603.
"the statute's inspection program, in terms of the certainty and regularity of its application, [must] provid[e] a constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant."
Ibid. In other words, the regulatory statute must perform the two basic functions of a warrant: it must advise the owner of the commercial premises that the search is being made pursuant to the law and has a properly defined scope, and it must limit the discretion of the inspecting officers. See Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., 436 U.S. at 436 U. S. 323; see also id. at 436 U. S. 332 (STEVENS, J., dissenting). To perform this first function, the statute must be
"sufficiently comprehensive and defined that the owner of commercial property cannot help but be aware that his property will be subject to periodic inspections undertaken for specific purposes."
Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 600. In addition, in defining how a statute limits the discretion of the inspectors, we have observed that it must be "carefully limited in time, place, and scope." United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. at 406 U. S. 315.
Searches made pursuant to § 415-a5, in our view, clearly fall within this established exception to the warrant requirement for administrative inspections in "closely regulated" businesses. [Footnote 13] First, the nature of the regulatory statute reveals that the operation of a junkyard, part of which is devoted to
vehicle dismantling, is a "closely regulated" business in the State of New York. [Footnote 14] The provisions regulating the activity of vehicle dismantling are extensive. An operator cannot engage in this industry without first obtaining a license, which means that he must meet the registration requirements and must pay a fee. [Footnote 15] Under § 415-a5(a), the operator must maintain a police book recording the acquisition and disposition of motor vehicles and vehicle parts, and make such records and inventory available for inspection by the police or any agent of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The operator also must display his registration number prominently at his place of business, on business documentation, and on vehicles and parts that pass through his business. § 415-a5(b). Moreover, the person engaged in this activity is subject to criminal penalties, as well as to loss of license or civil fines,
for failure to comply with these provisions. See §§ 415-a1, 5, and 6. [Footnote 16] That other States besides New York have imposed similarly extensive regulations on automobile junkyards further supports the "closely regulated" status of this industry. Seen 11, supra.
In determining whether vehicle dismantlers constitute a "closely regulated" industry, the "duration of [this] particular regulatory scheme," Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 606, has some relevancy. Section 415-a could be said to be of fairly recent vintage, see 1973 N.Y.Laws, ch. 225, § 1 (McKinney), and the inspection provision of § 415-a5 was added only in 1979, see 1979 N.Y.Laws, ch. 691, § 2 (McKinney). But because the automobile is a relatively new phenomenon in our society, and because its widespread use is even newer, automobile junkyards and vehicle dismantlers have not been in existence very long, and thus do not have an ancient history of government oversight. Indeed, the industry
did not attract government attention until the 1950's, when all used automobiles were no longer easily reabsorbed into the steel industry and attention then focused on the environmental and aesthetic problems associated with abandoned vehicles. See Landscape 1970: National Conference on the Abandoned Automobile 11; see also Report to the President from the Panel on Automobile Junkyards, White House Conference on Natural Beauty 1 (1965) (statement of Charles M. Haar, Chairman: "There are junkyards and abandoned cars in the streets and along the countryside that are making America ugly, not beautiful").
The automobile junkyard business, however, is simply a new branch of an industry that has existed, and has been closely regulated, for many years. The automobile junkyard is closely akin to the secondhand shop or the general junkyard. Both share the purpose of recycling salvageable articles and components of items no longer usable in their original form. As such, vehicle dismantlers represent a modern, specialized version of a traditional activity. [Footnote 17] In New York, general junkyards and secondhand shops long have been subject to regulation. One New York court has explained:
"Vehicle dismantlers are part of the junk industry, as well as part of the auto industry. . . . Prior to the enactment of section 415-a of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, auto dismantlers were subject to regulatory provisions governing the licensing and operation of junkyards. These regulations included provisions mandating the keeping of detailed records of purchases and sales, and the making of such records available at reasonable times to designated officials including police officers, by junk dealers . . . and by dealers in secondhand articles. . . . "
"These regulatory, recordkeeping and warrantless inspection provisions for junk shops have been a part of the law of the City of New York and of Brooklyn for at least 140 years."
People v. Tinneny, 99 Misc.2d 962, 969, 417 N.Y.S.2d 840, 845 (Sup.1979). See also N.Y. C. Charter and Admin. Code § B32-113.01 (1977) ("Junk dealer'. Any person engaged in the business of purchasing or selling junk"); §B32-126.0a ("`dealer in second-hand articles' shall mean any person who, in any way or as a principal broker or agent: 1. [d]eals in the purchase or sale of second-hand articles of whatever nature"). [Footnote 18] The history of government regulation of junk-related activities argues strongly in favor of the "closely regulated" status of the automobile junkyard.
Accordingly, in light of the regulatory framework governing his business and the history of regulation of related industries, an operator of a junkyard engaging in vehicle dismantling has a reduced expectation of privacy in this "closely regulated" business.
The New York regulatory scheme satisfies the three criteria necessary to make reasonable warrantless inspections pursuant to § 415-a5. First, the State has a substantial interest in regulating the vehicle-dismantling and automobile junkyard industry, because motor vehicle theft has increased in the State and because the problem of theft is associated with this industry. In this day, automobile theft has become a significant social problem, placing enormous economic and personal burdens upon the citizens of different States. For example, when approving the 1979 amendment to § 415-a5, which added the provision for inspections of records and inventory of junkyards, the Governor of the State explained:
"Motor vehicle theft in New York State has been rapidly increasing. It has become a multimillion dollar industry which has resulted in an intolerable economic burden on the citizens of New York. In 1976, over 130,000 automobiles were reported stolen in New York, resulting in losses in excess of $225 million. Because of the high rate of motor vehicle theft, the premiums for comprehensive motor vehicle insurance in New York are significantly above the national average. In addition, stolen automobiles are often used in the commission of other crimes, and there is a high incidence of accidents resulting in property damage and bodily injury involving stolen automobiles."
Governor's Message approving L.1979, chs. 691 and 692, 1979 N.Y. Laws 1826, 1826-1827 (McKinney). See also 25 Legislative Newsletter, New York State Automobile Assn., p. 1 (May 10, 1978), reprinted in Governor's Bill Jacket, L.1979, ch. 691 (1979 Bill Jacket) ("Auto theft in New York State has become a low-risk, high-profit, multimillion
dollar growth industry that is imposing intolerable economic burdens on motorists"). [Footnote 19] Because contemporary automobiles are made from standardized parts, the nationwide extent of vehicle theft and concern about it are understandable.
Second, regulation of the vehicle-dismantling industry reasonably serves the State's substantial interest in eradicating automobile theft. It is well established that the theft problem can be addressed effectively by controlling the receiver of, or market in, stolen property. 2 W. LaFave & A. Scott, Substantive Criminal Law § 8.10(a), p. 422 (1986) ("Without [professional receivers of stolen property], theft ceases to be profitable"); 2 Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice 789 (Kadish ed.1983) ("[The criminal receiver] . . . inspires 95 per cent or more of the theft in America"). Automobile junkyards and vehicle dismantlers provide the major market for stolen vehicles and vehicle parts. See Memorandum from Paul Goldman, Counsel, State Consumer Protection Board, to Richard A. Brown, Counsel to the Governor (June 29, 1979), 1979 Bill Jacket ("It is believed that a major source of stolen vehicles, parts and registration documentation may involve vehicles which pass through the hands of [junk vehicle] dealers"). Thus, the State rationally may believe that it will reduce car theft by regulations that prevent automobile junkyards from becoming markets for stolen vehicles, and that help trace the origin and destination of vehicle parts. [Footnote 20]
Moreover, the warrantless administrative inspections pursuant to § 415-a5 "are necessary to further [the] regulatory scheme." Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 600. In this respect, we see no difference between these inspections and those approved by the Court in United States v. Biswell and Donovan v. Dewey. We explained in Biswell:
"[I]f inspection is to be effective and serve as a credible deterrent, unannounced, even frequent, inspections are essential. In this context, the prerequisite of a warrant could easily frustrate inspection; and if the necessary flexibility as to time, scope, and frequency is to be preserved, the protections afforded by a warrant would be negligible."
406 U.S. at 406 U. S. 316. See also Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 603. Similarly, in the present case, a warrant requirement would interfere with the statute's purpose of deterring automobile theft accomplished by identifying vehicles and parts as stolen and shutting down the market in such items. Because stolen cars and parts often pass quickly through an automobile junkyard, "frequent" and "unannounced" inspections are necessary in order to detect them. In sum, surprise is crucial if the regulatory scheme aimed at remedying this major social problem is to function at all.
Third, § 415-a5 provides a "constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant." Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 603. The statute informs the operator of a vehicle dismantling business that inspections will be made on a regular basis. Id. at 452 U. S. 605. Thus, the vehicle dismantler knows that the inspections to which he is subject do not constitute discretionary acts by a government official, but are conducted pursuant to statute. See Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., 436 U.S. at 436 U. S. 332 (dissenting opinion). Section 415-a5 also sets forth the scope of the inspection and, accordingly, places the operator on notice as to how to comply with the statute. In addition, it notifies the operator as to who is authorized to conduct an inspection.
Finally, the "time, place, and scope" of the inspection is limited, United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. at 406 U. S. 315, to place appropriate restraints upon the discretion of the inspecting officers. See Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. at 452 U. S. 605. The officers are allowed to conduct an inspection only "during [the] regular and usual business hours." § 415-a5. [Footnote 21] The inspections can be made only of vehicle-dismantling and related industries. And the permissible scope of these searches is narrowly defined: the inspectors may examine the records, as well as "any vehicles or parts of vehicles which are subject to
the recordkeeping requirements of this section and which are on the premises." Ibid. [Footnote 22]
A search conducted pursuant to § 415-a5, therefore, clearly falls within the well-established exception to the warrant requirement for administrative inspections of "closely regulated" businesses. The Court of Appeals, nevertheless, struck down the statute as violative of the Fourth Amendment because, in its view, the statute had no truly administrative purpose, but was "designed simply to give the police an expedient means of enforcing penal sanctions for possession of stolen property." 67 N.Y.2d at 344, 493 N.E.2d at 929. The court rested its conclusion that the administrative goal of the statute was pretextual, and that § 415-a5 really "authorize[d] searches undertaken solely to uncover evidence of criminality," particularly on the fact that, even if an operator failed to produce his police book, the inspecting officers could continue their inspection for stolen vehicles and parts. Id. at 344, 345, 493 N.E.2d at 929, 930. The court also suggested that the identity of the inspectors -- police officers -- was significant in revealing the true nature of the statutory scheme. Id. at 344, 493 N.E.2d at 929.
In arriving at this conclusion, the Court of Appeals failed to recognize that a State can address a major social problem both by way of an administrative scheme and through penal sanctions. Administrative statutes and penal laws may have the same ultimate purpose of remedying the social problem, but they have different subsidiary purposes, and prescribe different methods of addressing the problem. An administrative statute establishes how a particular business in a
"closely regulated" industry should be operated, setting forth rules to guide an operator's conduct of the business and allowing government officials to ensure that those rules are followed. Such a regulatory approach contrasts with that of the penal laws, a major emphasis of which is the punishment of individuals for specific acts of behavior.
In United States v. Biswell, we recognized this fact that both administrative and penal schemes can serve the same purposes by observing that the ultimate purposes of the Gun Control Act were "to prevent violent crime and to assist the States in regulating the firearms traffic within their borders." 406 U.S. at 406 U. S. 315. It is beyond dispute that certain state penal laws had these same purposes. Yet the regulatory goals of the Gun Control Act were narrower: the Act ensured that
"weapons [were] distributed through regular channels and in a traceable manner and [made] possible the prevention of sales to undesirable customers and the detection of the origin of particular firearms."
Id. at 406 U. S. 315-316. The provisions of the Act, including those authorizing the warrantless inspections, served these immediate goals and also contributed to achieving the same ultimate purposes that the penal laws were intended to achieve.
This case, too, reveals that an administrative scheme may have the same ultimate purpose as penal laws, even if its regulatory goals are narrower. As we have explained above, New York, like many States, faces a serious social problem in automobile theft, and has a substantial interest in regulating the vehicle-dismantling industry because of this problem. The New York penal laws address automobile theft by punishing it or the possession of stolen property, including possession by individuals in the business of buying and selling property. Seen 6, supra. [Footnote 23] In accordance with its interest
in regulating the automobile junkyard industry, the State also has devised a regulatory manner of dealing with this problem. Section 415-a, as a whole, serves the regulatory goals of seeking to ensure that vehicle dismantlers are legitimate businesspersons, and that stolen vehicles and vehicle parts passing through automobile junkyards can be identified. [Footnote 24] In particular, § 415-a5 was designed to contribute to these goals, as explained at the time of its passage:
"This bill attempts to provide enforcement not only through means of law enforcement, but by making it unprofitable for persons to operate in the stolen car field. "
"The various businesses which are engaged in this operation have been studied, and the control and requirements on the businesses have been written in a manner which would permit the persons engaged in the business to legally operate in a manner conducive to good business practices, while making it extremely difficult for a person to profitably transfer a stolen vehicle or stolen part. The general scheme is to identify every person who may legitimately be involved in the operation, and to provide a recordkeeping system which will enable junk vehicles and parts to be traced back to the last legitimately registered or titled owner. Legitimate businessmen engaged in this field have complained with good cause that the lack of comprehensive coverage of the field has put them at a disadvantage with persons who currently are able to operate outside of statute and regulations. They have also legitimately complained that delays inherent in the present statutory regulation and onerous recordkeeping requirements have made profitable operation difficult."
"The provisions of this bill have been drafted after consultation with respected members of the various industries and provides [sic] a more feasible system of controlling traffic in stolen vehicles and parts."
Letter of Stanley M. Gruss, Deputy Commissioner and Counsel, to Richard A. Brown, Counsel to the Governor (June 20, 1979), 1979 Bill Jacket. Accordingly, to state that § 415-a5 is "really" designed to gather evidence to enable convictions under the penal laws is to ignore the plain administrative purposes of § 415-a in general, and § 415-a5 in particular.
If the administrative goals of § 415-a5 are recognized, the difficulty the Court of Appeals perceives in allowing inspecting officers to examine vehicles and vehicle parts even in the absence of records evaporates. The regulatory purposes of § 415-a5 certainly are served by having the inspecting officers
compare the records of a particular vehicle dismantler with vehicles and vehicle parts in the junkyard. The purposes of maintaining junkyards in the hands of legitimate businesspersons and of tracing vehicles that pass through these businesses, however, also are served by having the officers examine the operator's inventory even when the operator, for whatever reason, fails to produce the police book. [Footnote 25] Forbidding inspecting officers to examine the inventory in this situation would permit an illegitimate vehicle dismantler to thwart the purposes of the administrative scheme, and would have the absurd result of subjecting his counterpart who maintained records to a more extensive search. [Footnote 26]
Nor do we think that this administrative scheme is unconstitutional simply because, in the course of enforcing it, an inspecting officer may discover evidence of crimes, besides violations of the scheme itself. In United States v. Biswell, the pawnshop operator was charged not only with a violation of the recordkeeping provision, pursuant to which the inspection was made, but also with other violations detected during the inspection, see 406 U.S. at 406 U. S. 313, n. 2, and convicted of a failure to pay an occupational tax for dealing in specific firearms, id. at 406 U. S. 312-313. The discovery of evidence of crimes in the course of an otherwise proper administrative inspection does not render that search illegal, or the administrative scheme suspect. Cf. United States v. Villamonte-Marguez,462 U. S. 579, 462 U. S. 583-584, and n. 3 (1983). [Footnote 27]
Finally, we fail to see any constitutional significance in the fact that police officers, rather than "administrative" agents, are permitted to conduct the § 415-a5 inspection. The significance respondent alleges lies in the role of police officers as enforcers of the penal laws, and in the officers' power to arrest for offenses other than violations of the administrative scheme. It is, however, important to note that state police officers, like those in New York, have numerous duties in addition to those associated with traditional police work. See People v. De Bour, 40 N.Y.2d 210, 218, 352 N.E.2d 562, 568 (1976) ("To consider the actions of the police solely in terms of arrest and criminal process is an unnecessary distortion"); see also ABA Standards for Criminal Justice 1-1.1(b) and commentary (2d ed.1980, Supp.1982). As a practical matter, many States do not have the resources to assign the enforcement of a particular administrative scheme to a specialized agency. So long as a regulatory scheme is properly administrative, it is not rendered illegal by the fact that the inspecting officer has the power to arrest individuals for violations other than those created by the scheme itself. [Footnote 28] In
sum, we decline to impose upon the States the burden of requiring the enforcement of their regulatory statutes to be carried out by specialized agents.
Accordingly, the judgment of the New York Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
This Statute reads in pertinent part:
"Records and identification. (a) Any records required by this section shall apply only to vehicles or parts of vehicles for which a certifiate of title has been issued by the commissioner [of the Department of Motor Vehicles] or which would be eligible to have such a certificate of title issued. Every person required to be registered pursuant to this section shall maintain a record of all motor vehicles, trailers, and major component parts thereof, coming into his possession together with a record of the disposition of any such motor vehicle, trailer or part thereof and shall maintain proof of ownership for any motor vehicle, trailer or major component part thereof while in his possession. Such records shall be maintained in a manner and form prescribed by the commissioner. The commissioner may, by regulation, exempt vehicles or major component parts of vehicles from all or a portion of the recordkeeping requirements based upon the age of the vehicle if he deems that such recordkeeping requirements would serve no substantial value. Upon request of an agent of the commissioner or of any police officer and during his regular and usual business hours, a vehicle dismantler shall produce such records and permit said agent or police officer to examine them and any vehicles or parts of vehicles which are subject to the recordkeeping requirements of this section and which are on the premises. . . . The failure to produce such records or to permit such inspection on the part of any person required to be registered pursuant to this section as required by this paragraph shall be a class A misdemeanor."
It was unclear from the record why, on that particular day, Burger's junkyard was selected for inspection. Tr. 23-24. The junkyards designated for inspection apparently were selected from a list of such businesses compiled by New York City police detectives. Id. at 22.
An individual operating a vehicle-dismantling business in New York is required to have a license:
"Definition and registration of vehicle dismantlers. A vehicle dismantler is any person who is engaged in the business of acquiring motor vehicles or trailers for the purpose of dismantling the same for parts or reselling such vehicles as scrap. No person shall engage in the business of or operate as a vehicle dismantler unless there shall have been issued to him a registration in accordance with the provisions of this section. A violation of this subdivision shall be a class E felony."
N.Y.Veh. & Traf.Law §415-a1 (McKinney 1986).
There appears to have been some initial confusion among the inspecting officers as to whether Burger had not compiled a police book or whether, at the moment of the inspection, it simply was not in his possession. See Tr. 6, 30, 46-47, 59-60.
The officers also determined that Burger possessed a wheelchair and a handicapped person's walker that had been located in a stolen vehicle. See id. at 8-11, 13, 34-36.
Respondent was charged with two counts of criminal possession of stolen property in the second degree in violation of a New York statute that, at that time, read:
"A person is guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the second degree when he knowingly possesses stolen property, with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner thereof, and when:"
"1. The value of the property exceeds two hundred fifty dollars; or"
"* * * *"
"3. He is a pawnbroker or is in the business of buying, selling or otherwise dealing in property. . . . "
"* * * *"
"Criminal possession of stolen property in the second degree is a class E felony."
N.Y.Penal Law §165.45 (McKinney 1976). Burger also was charged with three counts of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree pursuant to the following provision of a New York statute:
"A person is guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree when he knowingly possesses stolen property, with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner thereof."
"Criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor."
N.Y.Penal Law § 165.40 (McKinney 1976).
In People v. Pace, the Appellate Division was faced with a situation in which officers had conducted a warrantless search of an automobile salvage yard immediately after having their suspicions aroused about criminal activity there. The court did not find the exception for warrantless administrative inspections applicable in that situation, 101 App.Div.2d at 340, 476 N.Y.S.2d at 446, but made the following footnote remark:
"Subdivision 5 of section 415-a of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, the statute under which the police officers said they were acting, has no application. While this section requires dismantlers to keep a police book, the book was missing when the officers entered, and it would thus have been impossible for the officers to exercise the alleged implied authority to compare the book entries to the contents of the yard."
Id. at 339, n. 1, 475 N.Y.S.2d at 446, n. 1. Respondent construed this footnote to mean that police officers had to obtain a search warrant if a vehicle dismantler did not produce a police book, and thus they could not conduct a warrantless inspection in the absence of this book. See 126 Misc.2d 709, 711, 479 N.Y.S.2d 936, 938 (Sup.1984).
In addition, the court determined that the search was proper under New York City Charter and Admin.Code § 436 (Supp.1986). 126 Misc.2d at 712-716, 479 N.Y.S.2d at 939-940. That section reads:
"The commissioner [of the Police Department] shall possess powers of general supervision and inspection over all licensed and unlicensed pawnbrokers, vendors, junkshop keepers, junk boatmen, cartmen, dealers in second-hand merchandise and auctioneers within the city; and in connection with the performance of any police duties he shall have power to examine such persons, their clerks and employees and their books, business premises, and any articles of merchandise in their possession. A refusal or neglect to comply in any respect with the provisions of this section on the part of any pawnbroker, vendor, junkshop keeper, junk boatman, cartman, dealer in second-hand merchandise or auctioneer, or any clerk or employee of any thereof shall be triable by a judge of the criminal court and punishable by not more than thirty days' imprisonment, or by a fine of not more than fifty dollars, or both."
The Court of Appeals found that the question of the constitutionality of the statute and charter was squarely presented by this case, as it had not been in People v. Pace, because there was no dispute that the inspection was made pursuant to those provisions. 67 N.Y.2d at 342-343, 493 N.E.2d at 928.
For similar reasons, the Court of Appeals concluded that Charter § 436 also violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. 67 N.Y.2d at 344-346, 493 N.E.2d at 929-930.
Numerous States have provisions for the warrantless inspections of vehicle dismantlers and automobile junkyards. See, e.g., Ala.Code § 40-12-419 (1986); Ariz.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 28-1307C (Supp.1986); Ark.Stat.Ann. § 75-1803 (1979); Cal.Veh.Code Ann. §§ 2805(a) and (c) (West Supp.1987); Conn.Gen.Stat. § 14-67m(a) (Supp.1987); Del.Code Ann., Tit. 21, § 6717(a) (1986); Fla.Stat. § 812.055 (Supp.1987); Ga.Code Ann. § 43-48-16 (1984); Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 95 1/2,