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Hanlon v. Berger


The defendants lived on a 75,000-acre ranch. A magistrate issued a warrant authorizing the search of “The Paul W. Berger ranch with appurtenant structures, excluding the residence” for evidence of “the taking of wildlife in violation of Federal laws.” About a week later, a multiple-vehicle caravan consisting of government agents and a crew of photographers and reporters from CNN proceeded to a point near the ranch. The agents executed the warrant and explained that “Over the course of the day, the officers searched the ranch and its outbuildings pursuant to the authority conferred by the search warrant. The CNN media crew accompanied the officers and recorded the officers’ conduct in executing the warrant.” The defendants sued federal agents for violating their Fourth Amendment rights.


Whether the officers can be held liable under Bivens for allowing persons not assisting in the execution of the warrant to intrude on the defendant’s privacy?


Yes. Courts granted the government permission to intrude on privacy with the use of a search warrant for the singular purpose of obtaining items expressed in the warrant. Allowing a search warrant to be used for other, additional purposes is unreasonable.


The Supreme Court held in Wilson v. Layne that Fourth Amendment rights of homeowners were violated when officers allow members of the media to accompany them during the execution of a warrant. The inclusion of personnel that are not necessary for the successful completion of the search warrant is an unreasonable intrusion into the privacy of the defendants.


526 U.S. 808, 119 S. Ct. 1706 (1999)

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