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Search & Seizure – Applicability of Exclusionary Rule: Private / Government Search — UPS

State v. Christopher D. Sloan, 2007 WI App 146
For Sloan: Thomas E. Hayes

Issue/Holding: Inspection of package by UPS personnel and subsequent disclosure of its contents to police didn’t require a warrant, because of lack of governmental involvement in the initial search.

¶10 A private party’s discovery, and subsequent disclosure to law enforcement, of contraband is not prohibited by the Fourth Amendment where there is not a reasonable expectation of privacy in dealings with the private party. See United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113, 115 (1984). One does not generally have a reasonable expectation of privacy when delivering property to a private shipping company, particularly when the shipping company posts a sign reserving its right to inspect parcels left with it for shipping. See id. at 117-18.

¶15 As noted above, a warrantless search conducted by a governmental agent that goes beyond the search conducted by the private party providing the package to law enforcement may be unconstitutional. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. at 115. Here, however, the only thing Hennen did, which UPS employees had not done, was to perform the field test to confirm that the material was marijuana. As we know from Jacobsen, that is permissible conduct by law enforcement.Id. at 123. Under the facts of Jacobsen, and the nearly identical facts here, the Fourth Amendment was not violated by Hennen’s conducting the field test to determine whether the material was, or was not, marijuana. We conclude that Hennen properly replicated the search already conducted by UPS employees and, under Jacobsen, did not move into an unreasonable search when he did the field test. See id. at 123 (“A chemical test that merely discloses whether or not a particular substance is cocaine does not compromise any legitimate interest in privacy. This conclusion is not dependent on the result of any particular test.”).

¶16 Based upon the teachings of Jacobsen and Beal, we conclude that the UPS employees had the authority to examine what they considered to be a suspicious package, that they could properly contact law enforcement about their findings, and that law enforcement was authorized to replicate the search already conducted by UPS. We conclude that law enforcement (i.e., Hennen’s search of the package) did not exceed the scope of the private-party search conducted by the UPS employees. Based upon the foregoing, we affirm the trial court’s decision with respect to search of the box left with UPS.

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