Ninth Circuit Limits Search of Electronic Devices at Borders

If you own a smart phone, an Android or iOS-based device or even a hand-held gaming system or a laptop, you no longer have to worry about having the device searched by a border patrol officer when entering the United States without some sort of reasonable cause. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that allowing border agents to search such devices violates Fourth Amendment protections. The court ruled that information on such devices should be considered "papers" – the Fourth Amendment reads as follows (emphasis is ours):

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The ruling states that "Homeland Security’s border agents must demonstrate reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before conducting forensic analysis of laptop computers and electronic devices." Judge M. Margaret McKeown determined that laptops, iPads and similar devices can be considered "offices and personal diaries" because they contain the most intimate details of peoples' lives.

"A person’s digital life ought not be hijacked simply by crossing a border," he wrote in his opinion.

The good news is that the Court of Appeals has reaffirmed that Fourth Amendment protections should not be diminished in the name of national threats or security. It's something that our lawmakers and the White House might want to take note of the next time they push for new laws regulating the product of free speech.

Source: Comic book Legal Defense Fund


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