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A search or seizure by a private party does not implicate the Fourth Amendment. However, the Fourth Amendment does apply to a search or seizure by a party even if otherwise a private party who is acting as an "instrument or agent" of the government. Two critical factors in the "instrument or agent" analysis are whether the government knows of and acquiesced in the intrusive conduct and whether the private party's purpose in conducting the search is to assist law enforcement agents or to further its own ends. Other useful criteria are whether the private actor acts at the request of the government and whether the government offers the private actor a reward.
After Tariq Shahid was involved in a suspicious circumstance relating to a diamond ring in a mall, the mall security officers were called. The security officers stopped Shahid and discovered ammunition and a firearm, which they seized from him. Shahid was later charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a felon in possession of ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(g)(1). He sought to suppress the firearm and ammunition, arguing that the security officers violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court denied the motion, holding that the Fourth Amendment did not apply because the security officers were not acting as state agents. Shahid entered a condition guilty plea. Shahid argued that the Fourth Amendment was applicable to the seizure.
Was the Fourth Amendment applicable to the seizure done by the mall security officers?
The court affirmed the trial court's decision, holding that the Fourth amendment was not applicable to the seizure because there was no evidence to show that the mall security was the local law enforcement agency to which the Fourth Amendment applied rather than the applicable county sheriff's department.