Reasonable Suspicion Required to Search Electronic Devices at Border

Border agents no longer have complete discretion to search your phone and computer at the border.  They now need to have reasons for suspicion of unlawful intent before demanding to search electronics.  On November 12, 2019, U.S. District Judge Denise Casper said there must be a reasonable suspicion that the devices contain contraband — such as child pornography or classified information — before the search.  The ruling, however, did not go so far as to require warrants for searches of electronic devices, but the Judge concluded that the border search exception to the Fourth Amendment does not give CBP officers an unfettered ability to search electronic devices.  Casper said she was requiring reasonable suspicion, rather than a warrant justified by probable cause, because travelers have a reduced expectation of privacy at the border and the government has an interest in maintaining “territorial integrity.”

The number of electronic device searches at U.S. ports of entry has recently increased significantly. Last year, CBP conducted more than 33,000 searches, almost four times the number from just three years prior. This new ruling is a major victory for privacy rights.

Font Resize