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East Hartford criminal defense lawyer for illegal searchesMany of the laws in the United States were written hundreds of years ago, when the most advanced forms of technology available were bifocal eyeglasses and steamboats. In today’s world, where everything is at your fingertips in the form of a handheld device, the application of these laws can become tricky. In recent years, people have argued that their Fourth Amendment rights have been overstepped at U.S. border checkpoints. Millions of people travel in and out of the United States on a daily basis, and they may be subject to electronic device searches, whether they are U.S. citizens or not. The question is, are these searches legal?

Civil Liberties Advocates Argue for More Privacy

In recent years, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents have been searching more and more electronic devices at U.S. borders. In 2015, there were an estimated 8,500 searches conducted on electronic devices at the border. In 2018, there were 33,000 searches conducted, which is a three-fold increase. Many civil liberties advocates, most notably the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have argued that these searches are often done for no apparent reason and violate the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Federal Judge Rules in Favor of Privacy Advocates

In 2017, a lawsuit was filed against CBP by 11 people (10 of whom are U.S. citizens and one who is a lawful permanent resident) alleging that their electronic devices were taken by CBP, and their personal data was searched for no apparent reason. Recently, a federal judge in Boston ruled that CBP agents cannot take travelers’ electronic devices and conduct suspicionless searches. The U.S. has long asserted that it does not need to issue warrants to search devices at the border, but this judge has concluded that CBP agents must have reasonable suspicion and be able to point to specific facts to justify the search before a search is conducted.

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