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Horse racing administrators who conducted a warrantless search of the dormitory rooms of Yonkers Raceway workers violated the U.S. Constitution, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. A divided court found that the search, aimed at stopping the doping of horses at the raceway and drug use by Raceway workers, violated workers’ rights under the 4th Amendment in the case of Anobile v. Pelligrino, 99-9043. The searches that occurred in 1997 were intended to uncover the use of equine drugs, discover drug use by workers and address other “compliance problems” at the raceway. After uncovering needles and syringes, as well as drugs such as penicillin and cortisone, six of the plaintiffs had their licenses suspended. Among the plaintiffs who challenged the legality of the searches were licensed owners, trainers, drivers and a groom. Then-Southern District of New York Judge Barrington Parker Jr. ruled in 1999 that the search was constitutional and “appropriate in time, place and scope.” Judge Parker, who now sits on the 2nd Circuit, also found that � 4120.6 of the New York Racing and Wagering Board’s rules and regulations gave adequate notice to the plaintiffs that they had a reduced expectation of privacy at the raceway. Judge Parker was persuaded that the license applications signed by the plaintiffs stated the board’s authority to search all property at the raceway, and thus amounted to consent to the search. Writing for the 2nd Circuit, Judge Fred I. Parker noted that � 4120.6(d) provides that the board “shall have the right to enter into or upon the buildings, stables, rooms, motor vehicles or other places within the grounds” of a racetrack. Nonetheless, Judge Fred Parker said, “we conclude that this phrase cannot constitutionally extend to dormitories, which are used solely as residences for racetrack employees.” “Privacy expectations are high in homes, or even in private rooms,” he said, and any search conducted of such locations “is highly intrusive.” “We note, however, that the notice contained in the license applications informing licensees of the likelihood of a search does give rise to a somewhat reduced expectation of privacy,” Judge Parker said. “Despite this notice, we cannot say that the reduction is sufficient to overcome the high expectation of privacy which automatically attaches to these dormitory rooms, which serve as the residents’ homes.” While the government’s interest in assuring the integrity of harness racing in New York is “substantial,” Judge Parker said, the “authority to uncover equine drugs and drug paraphernalia with warrantless searches of the vehicles, barns and persons located in the racetrack area … sufficiently protects the integrity of New York’s racing industry.” “Intrusion into someone’s home is simply not necessary,” he said. The 2nd Circuit also ruled that the waiver provision in the license application is “unreasonable, and we refuse to construe plaintiffs’ yearly license application as effective consent.” But the appeals court ruled that the district court was correct to uphold the constitutionality of the track officials’ challenges to searches of the raceway barn and vehicles on the premises. “Because these searches all occurred in areas of the racetrack where the highly regulated activities addressed by the regulations were taking place, i.e., where the horses were stabled and prepared to race, we conclude that the regulations provided persons present in those areas with sufficient notice of the likelihood of a search to satisfy the Fourth Amendment,” Judge Parker said. In a dissenting opinion, Senior Judge Ellsworth A. Van Graafeiland said the majority apparently believed “that the betting public would not be adversely affected by information that the back stretch of one of New York State’s major race tracks was infested with all sorts of criminal wrong doing and that this would have no deleterious effect on the income derived by the State from their wagering.” Judge Van Graafeiland said the application required of potential licensees in the “closely regulated business” of horse racing was so clearly worded that “one does not need to have the learning of a Rhodes Scholar to understand” it. “Moreover, no one forced the applicants to participate in the horse racing business and no one compelled them to utilize the ‘homes’ provided by the track,” he said. Judge Stefan R. Underhill of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut joined in the majority. Richard W. Fulfree of Yonkers, N.Y., represented the plaintiffs. Assistant Attorney General Charles F. Sanders, Deputy Solicitor General Edward Johnson and Assistant Solicitor General Mark Gimpel represented New York State.

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