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"Special Needs" Exception to the Warrant Requirement

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 75 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2006 Pages: 21-32
Martin J. King J.D.
Date Published
June 2006
12 pages
This article describes the “special needs” exception which applies to searches and seizures conducted without individualized suspicion for the purpose of minimizing a risk of harm.
Under the fourth amendment, a search ordinarily must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. The use of searches without individualized suspicion for the purpose of deterring a possible terrorist attack will continue to be carefully examined. To fall within the “special needs” exception, a deterrent program must address a special need beyond the ordinary needs of law enforcement, the governmental interest behind the program must be compelling, the program must only intrude minimally upon privacy interests, and the program must be reasonably effective. An exception to the fourth amendment of the Constitution which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures is the "special needs" exception. When a search serves “special government needs” beyond the normal needs of law enforcement, in which case the search may be reasonable despite the absence of a warrant, probable cause, or individualized suspicion. 65 endnotes