National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab
489 U.S. 656 (1989)

Von Raab was the Commissioner of Customs. He implemented a drug-testing program for three types of positions:

(1) Those with direct involvement in drug interdiction;
(2) Those that carried firearms;
(3) Those that handled ‘classified’ material.

Whether it violates the Fourth Amendment for U.S. Customs to require urine tests from employees who seek transfer or promotion to certain positions.



  • Where a Fourth Amendment intrusion serves special governmental needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement, it is necessary to balance the individual’s privacy expectations against the Government’s interest… to determine whether it is impractical to require a warrant or some level of individualized suspicion in the particular context.
    • I.e., Special needs of the workplace is one of the ‘few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions’ to the warrant requirement.
  • Here, the Government’s interests in safeguarding our borders and the public safety outweighed the privacy expectations of the employees in the first two groups (you don’t want the people that confiscate drugs to be doing drugs, and you don’t want people drunk / high handling firearms).
  • However, the court didn’t assess the reasonableness of the requirement for the third group of employees – those handling classified material – because it wasn’t evident that all of the positions listed were likely to gain access to sensitive information.
    • In addition to accountants and attorneys, the Government included baggage clerks, electric equipment repairers, animal caretakers, etc. as those having access.


  • The Constitutional requirement of probable cause was abandoned.
  • The Government didn’t point to a single instance where drug use was the cause of ‘speculated horribles.’

Rule: Drug tests for positions that involve the interdiction of illegal drugs or require carrying a firearm do not violate the Fourth Amendment.