The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -



Opinion No. 5575

October 5, 1979


Citizenship requirement for burglar alarm system installers


Citizenship requirement for burglar alarm system installers


Art 1, Sec. 2 (equal protection)

The provision in the state requiring a person to be a citizen in order to obtain a license to engage in the business of installing and operating a burglar alarm system is unconstitutional as a denial of equal protection of the laws.

Honorable John M. Maynard

State Representative

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan 48909

You have asked for my opinion as to the constitutionality of a citizenship requirement for a person engaged in installing burglar alarm systems. This requirement is contained in the Private Security Guard Act of 1978, MCLA 338.1051 et seq; MSA 18.185(1) et seq.

In its original form, 1968 PA 330 provided for licensing and regulation of security guards, private police, security technicians, watchmen, patrol service and private security guard agencies. (1) In 1975, the Legislature amended 1968 PA 330 to additionally require the licensing and regulation of persons or firms engaged in burglar alarm sales, installations and operations. 1975 PA 190.

1968 PA 330, supra, requires that a person licensed to sell, install and operate burglar alarm systems must be licensed pursuant to the act as required by 1968 PA 330, supra, Sec. 3(1). The qualifications for licensure are set forth in section 6 of the Act and section 6(1)(a) provides:

'The department shall issue a license to conduct business as an alarm system contractor or a private security guard or agency, if it is satisfied that the applicant is a person, or if a firm, partnership, company, or corporation, the sole or principal license holder is a person who meets all of the following qualifications:

'(a) Is a citizen of the United States.'

The Legislature has defined the scope of activity of a burglar alarm system installer to respond to burglar alarm signals, but conferred no authority on these persons to exercise the powers of a peace officer. Compare People v Eastway, 67 Mich Ap 464; 241 NW2d 249 (1976), which confirmed the authority of a private security guard licensed under the same act to exercise limited powers of a peace officer. A citizenship requirement is a statutory qualification for a private security guard.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Mich Const 1963, art 1, Sec. 2 provide that no person shall be denied equal protection of the law.

In Truax v Raich, 239 US 33, 41-42; 60 L Ed 131, 135; 36 S Ct 7, 10-11 (1915), the United States Supreme Court stated:

'It is sought to justify this act [to require employers to employ at least 80% citizens] as an exercise of the power of the State to make reasonable classifications in legislating to promote the health, safety, morals and welfare of those within its jurisdiction. But this admitted authority, with the broad range of legislative discretion that it implies, does not go so far as to make it possible for the State to deny to lawful inhabitants, because of their race or nationality, the ordinary means of earning a livelihood. It requires no argument to show that the right to work for a living in the common occupations of the community is of the very essence of the personal freedom and opportunity that it was the purpose of the [Fourteenth] Amendment to secure . . ..'

A citizen has a right to engage in any business which does not harm the public, subject to the police power of the state to preserve public health, safety, morals and general welfare by enactment of legislation bearing a reasonable relation between the remedy adopted and public purpose. Worthington v City of Kalamazoo, 71 Mich Ap 646; 248 NW2d 654 (1976).

A state may adopt legislation which bars aliens from participation in its democratic political institutions. Sugarman v Dougall, 413 US 634; 37 L Ed 2d 853; 93 S Ct 2842 (1973). A state may, therefore, deny an alien the right to vote, the right to run for elective office, eligibility to serve on a jury and eligibility to be employed in significant non-elective executive, legislative, and judicial positions which participate directly in the formulation, execution, or review of broad public policy. In re Griffiths, 413 US 717; 37 L Ed 2d 910; 93 S Ct 2851 (1973). A state may require that police officers be citizens of the United States. Foley v Connelie, 435 US 291; 55 L Ed 2d 287; 98 S Ct 1067 (1978). But for a state to validly bar an alien from the exercise of a constitutionally guaranteed right, the state must demonstrate that the purpose of the legislation is necessary to the accomplishment of the safeguarding of the public interest.

In In re Griffiths, supra, the United States Supreme Court held that a state may not constitutionally exclude an alien from the practice of law. Following Griffiths, the Michigan Supreme Court in In re Houlahan, 389 Mich 665; 209 NW2d 250 (1973), held that admission to the practice of law may not be denied because the applicant is not a citizen of the United States although a former statute had imposed this requirement. RJA 934, MCLA 600.934; MSA 27A.934.

Subsequently, in Ambach v Norwick, ---- US ----; 60 L Ed 2d 49; 99 S Ct ---- (1979), the United States Supreme Court ruled that, in view of the degree of responsibility and discretion of teachers in fulfilling a fundamental obligation of government to its constituency, the state has a legitimate interest in barring aliens from teaching.

It may also be noted that the Attorney General has declared invalid statutory provisons which impose citizenship requirements for real estate brokers and salesmen, OAG, 1971-1972, No 4754, p 109 (November 9, 1972); physicians and surgeons, OAG, 1971-1972, No 4755, p 111 (November 9, 1972); nurses, OAG, 1947-1948, No 705, p 589 (June 11, 1948); barbers, OAG, 1963-1964, No 4248, p 316 (March 16, 1964), OAG, 1941-1942, No 20579, p 261 (July 28, 1941); certified public accountants, OAG, 1973-1974, No 4765, p 40 (May 18, 1973); and podiatrists, OAG, 1973-1974, No 4767, p 43 (May 18, 1973).

It is therefore my opinion that the statutory provision which makes citizenship a requirement for the licensing of a person in the business of installing and operating a burglar alarm system is unconstitutional as a denial of equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States and Const 1963, art 1, Sec. 2.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

(1) This opinion does not address the issue of whether a citizenship requirement for private security guards is constitutional.