U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Special Needs Doctrine — Breathalyzer
Lunch v. City of New York
Judges Raggi, Straub and Cogan
Background: The plaintiffs appealed from summary judgment in favor of the defendants with regard to the Fourth Amendment challenge to the New York City Police Department’s policy of administering Breathalyzer tests to any officer who discharges a firearm resulting in death or personal injury. The plaintiffs argued that the special needs doctrine does not apply, as the policy does not serve a primary purpose distinct from normal criminal law enforcement. Further, even if it did, the special needs are outweighed by the officers’ privacy interests as to preclude warrantless, suspicionless Breathalyzer testing.
Ruling: The Second Circuit affirmed. The court found that the testing is to determine an officer’s sobriety at the time of the shooting. Sobriety is a fitness-for-duty condition of employment. Therefore, sobriety serves special needs distinct from criminal law enforcement. Further, this need is not compatible with respect to the warrant requirements applicable to criminal investigations.
Eileen Penner of Mayer Brown for the appellants; Jane L. Gordon, corporation counsel, for the appellees