Special needs searches are searches that are done without a warrant, typically by government officials who are not police officers. The Court allows such searches under three conditions:
- It must be impractical to obtain a warrant.
- There must be a governmental interest in the search that outweighs the degree to which the search intrudes on the individual.
- The purpose of the search must not be to obtain evidence for law-enforcement purposes.
There are a number of kinds of special needs searches that have been allowed by the Supreme Court. They include:
- Searches of public school students by school officials.
- Some searches of employees by public employers.
- Drug testing for employment purposes.
- Searches of people on probation.
- Airport security screening.