Inspection Warrant Definition
In California, Code of Civil Procedure section 1822.50 et seq. governs inspection warrants.
An inspection warrant by definition "is an order, in writing, in the name of the people, signed by a judge of a court of record, directed to a state or local official, commanding him to conduct any inspection required or authorized by state or local law or regulation relating to building, fire, safety, plumbing, electrical, health, labor, or zoning." (Code Civ. Proc., 1822.50.)
Unless other state or federal standards apply, an inspection warrant must be issued upon cause and supported by affidavit particularly describing the premises to be searched and the purpose of the inspection, and containing a statement that consent for the search was sought and refused or circumstances justified the failure to seek consent. (Code Civ. Proc., 1822.51.)
Cause is deemed to exist if "either reasonable legislative or administrative standards for conducting a routine or area inspection are satisfied with respect to the particular place . . . or there is reason to believe that a condition of nonconformity exists with respect to the particular place, dwelling, structure, premises, or vehicle." (Code Civ. Proc., 1822.52; see also Michigan v. Clifford (1984) 464 U.S. 287.)
"The statutes governing administrative warrants vest substantial discretion in the court to determine probable cause and provide special protections not present in the criminal context." (County of Contra Costa v. Humore, Inc. (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1335, 1351.)
The judge may examine the affiant and any other witness before satisfying him or herself that there are grounds to issue the warrant. (Ibid.; Code Civ. Proc., 1822.53.)
Further, "the civil warrant is less intrusive: the owner or occupant must be present - and forcible entry is prohibited - except upon express authorization to the contrary by the judge upon a reasonable showing; and, where prior consent has been sought and refused, notice that a warrant has issued must be given 24 hours before execution unless 'immediate execution is reasonably necessary in the circumstances shown.' " (County of Contra Costa, at p. 1351, quoting Code Civ. Proc., 1822.56.)