State v. Vonhof

In State v. Vonhof, 51 Wash. App. 33, 751 P.2d 1221 (Wash. Ct. App. 1988), a tax appraiser working for the county entered the defendants' property, uninvited, to measure the dimensions of a new porch addition. Upon approaching an outbuilding, he smelled marijuana, left the premises, and contacted police. The trial court concluded that the visit by the tax appraiser was not a search under the Fourth Amendment because the appraiser was not acting with law enforcement authority. The appellate court rejected this reasoning, ruling that the tax appraiser was acting as a government official, and not as a private citizen, and that it was not essential that he have law enforcement authority. Id. at 1224. The court concluded that there was no unconstitutional search because a statute expressly authorized the tax appraiser to examine property "at any reasonable time," and, under the factors enumerated in a prior decision, the search was not unreasonable. Id. at 1224-25.