Camara v. Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco

PETITIONER: Roland Camara
RESPONDENT: Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco
LOCATION: Camara Residence

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 387 US 523 (1967)
ARGUED: Feb 15, 1967
DECIDED: Jun 05, 1967

Albert W. Harris, Jr. - Assistant Attorney General of California, for the appellee
Marshall Warren Krause - for the appellant

Facts of the case

An inspector from the Department of Public Health of San Francisco asked Roland Camara to be allowed to search his residence. The inspector claimed that the occupancy permit for the property did not allow residential use of the first floor. The search was a routine annual inspection. Camara refused to let the inspector enter the building without a warrant. The inspector returned two more times without a warrant, and Camara turned him away. About a month after the first visit, Camara was arrested and charged with violation of the San Francisco Housing Code (SFHC) for refusing to allow the inspection. Camara sought a writ of prohibition, arguing that the section of the SFHC that authorized the inspection violated Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Superior Court of California denied the writ, the District Court of Appeals affirmed and the Supreme Court of California denied a petition for hearing.


Do §503 of the SFHC, which authorizes inspection of private dwellings without a warrant, and §507, which makes it a crime to refuse such an inspection, violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Camara v. Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 15, 1967 in Camara v. Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco

Earl Warren:

Number 92, Roland Camara, Appellant, versus Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco.

Mr. Krause.

Marshall Warren Krause:

May it please the Court, Mr. Chief Justice and Associate Justices.

This is a health inspector case and involves with the meaning of the Fourth Amendment which is the vexing an important problem which has been with us for a long time.

The appellant in this case believes that the Fourth Amendment is more than written of mere words.

It was written of the long experience of the colonists under the English rule in framing the Fourth Amendment.

It was written as its very word state to protect the security of the citizens and residents of this country.

It was not meant to be a nose of wax to be twisted to the convenience of petty government officials.

This case arose when an official wish to inspect the apartment of the appellant because he had learned that the appellant was living in an apartment which he did not believe was covered by a certificate of occupancy in an apartment house.

He went to the appellant, asked him whether he as living in this apartment, the appellant said, “Yes, he was”.

The health inspector then said, “May I come in and inspect.”

The answer was, “Do you have a warrant?

Do you have a complaint?”

The answers to both of those questions were, “No.

This is a routine inspection.”

And it was a routine inspection, permission was denied.

Again, the health inspector came back --

(Inaudible) inspection required by the statute?

Marshall Warren Krause:

The appellee claims that that was the power that the inspector was pursuing at the time, yes.

But it was not done as it was in Frank versus Maryland, it's a relevant complaint by an individual?

Marshall Warren Krause:


There was no complaint at all.

The only reason which has ever been offered is that the apartment may not have been the covered by the certificate of occupancy but that was sufficiently answered when the appellant said, "Yes, I do live here".

And then the inspector came back two more times and on the second -- third visit, November 22nd, 1963 in the afternoon, the inspector again required -- said that he wanted to enter the apartment.

It was denied, permission under exactly the same circumstances and for this offense on November 22nd, the appellant was charged with a crime.

We attempted to prohibit that crime through California procedures in the California Courts but that prohibition proceeding did not succeed because the courts below relied on Frank versus Maryland.

Now, the inspection was done under Section 503 of the San Francisco Municipal Code which provides that any city employee in the performance of his duties may inspect any premises at reasonable times as long as he is performing his duties.

You will note that the statute does not require any warrant.

It does not require any probable cause.

It was -- it does not require any complaint and no appointment is necessary.