March 05, 2021 Articles

Defining the Proper Limits of Government Inspections

The government may have more limitations on its power to inspect your business than you realize.

By Joseph Herbster
Newer technology is forcing us to continually reconsider the scope of the government’s surveillance and search authority.

Newer technology is forcing us to continually reconsider the scope of the government’s surveillance and search authority.

Pexels | Burst

Many statutes and regulations contain provisions that seemingly grant broad authority for government agency inspections. However, the government may have more limitations on its power to inspect your business than you realize. Further, questions remain as to whether new technologies that allow the government to inspect your business from a distance, without your knowledge, should trigger the same limitations on government authority.

Fourth Amendment: Private Property Versus Business

Most people recognize the limiting effects of the Fourth Amendment on law enforcement’s ability to search your private property. We have all seen enough Law & Order to have heard a smug villain challenge a cop to show him a warrant.

However, it is quite rare for a business owner or manager to raise constitutional objections to an inspection by an enforcement agency—and for good reason! Government agents do have the right to inspect businesses within their jurisdiction, and businesses should strive to have positive, cooperative relationships with those agencies.

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