Can Customs and Border Protection Agents Forensically Search Your Smartphone Without a Warrant?

Case Overview According to the one court of appeals, the answer is yes. Last week, a divided panel of judges from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that warrantless, forensic searches of a U.S. citizen’s smartphones at the border were constitutional.  In United States v. Vergara, the Eleventh Circuit was tasked with weighing the government’s interest in border and territorial security against Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures.  No. 16-15059, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 6413 (11th Cir. Mar. 15, 2018).  The crucial question before the court was whether the vast amount of personal data stored on a smartphone implicated heightened privacy concerns that vitiated the well-established rule that border searches do not require a warrant.  Id. at *7.  Read our prior blog for an overview of what a “reasonable expectation of privacy” is under the Fourth Amendment.  The court concluded that the…

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