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I read with interest a recent article entitled “Travelers Beware: Laptop Searches”, where courts continue to debate whether laptops at the border may be routinely searched without a warrant or without reasonable suspicion. In 2008, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals determined that such a search could indeed take place.

That court drew no distinction between luggage and laptops, irrespective of the fact that one’s most personal files are contained in the hand-held devices, instead determining that an initial search of the electronic device did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

The court’s analysis in a recent 2012 decision of the 9th Circuit laid out the basis for border searches stating that millions of citizens cross American borders regularly and in our digital world, an initial search of electric digital devices is permitted to view image files. However, once officials attempt the next step to conduct a forensic examination of the device, they need “reasonable suspicion” to continue.

Although we have a reasonable expectation of privacy, a “peek” into the electronic device is no more intrusive than with other forms of property. To probe greater into the content of the device, reasonable suspicion and/or criminal activity must be suspected. Our ongoing and continuing technology poses problems and issues for the court, border officials, and ourselves.

Protect your rights and protect your privacy by keeping your electronic devices clean. Be aware of your rights and the rights of others. Should you have questions regarding any of your rights, whether life, liberty, or property, contact the Heiting and Irwin to discuss.

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