ACLU Lawsuit, Latest Border Security News

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 14, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The American Civil Liberties Union announced it is filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of 10 U.S. citizens who claim their electronic devices were either searched or seized at the border, all without a warrant. "The border should not serve as a dragnet for law enforcement to pry into our personal and professional lives," the ACLU said in a statement. "None of our clients have been accused of any wrongdoing, nor have they been given any valid explanation for why this happened to them."

We know that border security must be taken seriously, and President Donald Trump has been aggressive in his rhetoric about securing the nation's borders, but does that mean civil liberties or search and seizure protections cease when you're leaving or re-entering the country?

Here are five recent updates on criminal law and police procedure at the border.

1. Your Significant Privacy Interest in Your Phone Doesn't End at Border

Not all phone searches at the border are the same. Courts have distinguished between "manual" searches of electronic devices at the border, which are permitted, and more invasive "forensic" searches that require law enforcement to have some "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity in order to conduct.

2. U.S. Customs Can't Search Your Cloud Data on Border

And while, at the moment, border patrol agents are allowed to search your phone without a warrant, there are limits to that search. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said that only locally stored data is subject to search at the border, and law enforcement cannot search data stored in the cloud.

3. Border Patrol Shootings: Who Investigates?

The border, like anywhere, can be a violent place, and we have, sadly, become used to reading about police shootings. There are protocols in place for investigating those shootings, but what about those that happen at the border or across it?

4. Six Major U.S. Airports Now Using Biometrics for All International Departures

Facial recognition software has become so ubiquitous that it's going to be able to unlock your next smartphone. So it's no wonder that law enforcement wants to use it, and other biometric data, at the border.

5. Crossing State Lines With Marijuana

International borders aren't the only ones you need to be worried about. With so many states legalizing marijuana to various degrees -- and all those legalization efforts running counter to federal law -- make sure you know what to expect when crossing state borders with weed.

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