The rules governing the conduct of an inspection must be understood and applied in a reasonable
fashion. You should understand how the courts have dealt with these issues, and should be able to
distinguish between a "good" inspection and a "bad" one.
In one case, the accused's roommate saw him put some cocaine into small packets in their room.
Wanting the drugs out of the room and being afraid that he might be blamed for their presence if they
were to be discovered, the roommate reported the incident to their platoon sergeant, SSG Gunn. That
same morning, SSG Gunn had been directed to conduct an inspection for pyrotechnical devices, since
someone had set off some the night before. SSG Gunn had not, however, been told specifically when
to do the inspection. SSG Gunn took no immediate action, as he was busy with other matters. When
the roommate complained again (later in the day), SSG Gunn then began "what purported to be an
inspection," starting with the accused's wall locker. As SSG Gunn was doing the "inspection," the
roommate noticed a packet of marijuana behind the seat cushion of a chair in the room. The roommate
showed this to SSG Gunn, who put it back and told the roommate to go and get the accused. When
the accused appeared, SSG Gunn showed him the marijuana, and then summoned the commander.
When the commander was shown the marijuana, he had the rest of the room searched. This
included a strip search of the accused, and the commander "then cut open the bottom of the chair in
which the marijuana had been found." According to SSG Gunn, the chair was literally cut into shreds.
This resulted in the discovery of ten packets of heroin. The court held that "literally cutting the chair to
shreds" exceeded the scope of an inspection, and the requirement that such an inspection "be
conducted in a reasonable fashion." Instead, the situation evolved into a search." The search was,
then, not upheld as a legitimate inspection. Since the roommate had consented to a search, and since
it was also in a common area of the room over which the roommate had control, the court nonetheless
upheld it as a consent search. U.S. v. Thrower, 12 MJ 777 (ACMR, 1981).
In another case, at a battalion command and staff meeting, officers were informed that a soldier in
the battalion had recently lost both of his hands in an explosion. Accordingly, the battalion commander
advised all company commanders that they should hold inspections "to insure that none of the unit's
soldiers had any of this type of munitions or anything else that was dangerous to them." The following
morning, the commander in question decided to conduct an inspection of his unit. He instructed his
platoon leaders and NCOs "to look for overall accountability, cleanliness, ready state of the equipment,
they were to look for anything illegal such as, and I named munitions, pyrotechnics, fireworks, blanks,
the incident that had occurred with the soldier who had been injured. He testified that he decided to do
a health and welfare inspection "because in his experience even good soldiers forget about small-arms
ammunition or brass which they have put in their pockets or field gear."