In a recent opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Court ruled that US Customs officers can search the electronic contents of an international passenger’s computer without having a “reasonable suspicion” that the computer contains illegal material.
The case, United States v. Arnold, involved a person who arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport from the Philippines. On arrival, customs officials singled out the passenger for additional screening. When the officials searched the passenger’s luggage, they found a laptop computer and ordered the passenger to turn it on. When the officials looked through the information stored on the computer, they found that the computer contained child pornography. The passenger was subsequently prosecuted and moved to suppress the search, arguing that the search, which was conducted without reasonable suspicion, which violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court ruled that, because the passenger was arriving at a port of entry from overseas, officials had a right to search the computer to determine whether it contained contraband.
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