Consider a defendant who was a passenger on a public bus. She placed her carry-on luggage in a public luggage rack. When the bus stopped at a border checkpoint, a border patrol officer entered the bus and verified immigration status. After doing so, the officer "squeezed" soft carry-on luggage in the public bins. He detected a hard, brick-like object in the defendant's luggage, which on inspection turned out to be illegal drugs. The defendant was convicted, despite her Fourth Amendment objection to the search of her luggage. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction.
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I agree more with the Supreme Court than with the original trial court. I do not think that the Border Patrol's actions fall within any of the exceptions to the requirement that law enforcement officials should have a warrant in order to conduct a search.
There was clearly no reason to search the woman's bags, so we are left to ask whether what the officer did constituted a search. I would argue that it did. By squeezing the bag, the officer was going beyond a reaonable, cursory look at things that were in plain sight. He was, instead, taking an action that was more invasive. Therefore, I would argue that it was a search and that there was no good reason to have conducted a search under the circumstances.
In this case, the Supreme Court would only not be wrong, but would be overturning 200 years of prior caselaw, as well as numerous Federal laws and regulations.
Based upon your facts, the search apparently took place at a border checkpoint as the defendant attempted to enter the country. Under well-established and long standing law, (which in fact pre-dates the Constitution) the Border agent could have opened and searched her bags without a warrant, without probable cause.
"When crossing the border into the United States, a traveler's luggage, conveyance, outer clothing, purse, wallet, and pockets are subject to suspicionless (i.e., routine) inspection. (5) When inspecting luggage, it is permissible as part of a routine search to scratch the exterior to determine if the luggage shell vibrates (lack of vibration would be abnormal), to flex the luggage exterior (lack of flex would be abnormal), and to heft the luggage to see whether it is equally weighted (unexplained weight might suggest a hidden compartment containing contraband)"
United States v. Braks, 842 F.2d 509, 514 (1st Cir. 1988); United States v. Asbury, 586 F.2d 973, 975 (2d Cir. 1978); Henderson v. United States, 390 F.2d 805, 808 (9th Cir. 1967);
its 50-50. yeah they had no right, but then again those drugs would now be in the streets ruining someones life.
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