Ruling on Border Inspections

Monday, April 05, 2004
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Executive Branch has plenary authority to conduct suspicionless inspections at the border. In the instant case, Customs officials removed and disassembled the gas tank from a car entering the United States from Mexico at a land border crossing. Marijuana was found in the gas tank and criminal charges were brought against the driver. Defendant argued that the evidence should be suppressed because the search was highly intrusive and was not based on reasonable suspicion that he was committing an offense. The Court held that the Government’s interest in preventing entry of unwanted persons and effects is at its zenith at the international border. There is a lesser expectation of privacy at the border than in the interior. While this is a land-based case, the provisions apply with equal force to ships entering the United States from foreign nations and relate to all federal agencies, not just U.S. Customs and Border Protection. United States v. Flores-Montano, No. 02-1794 (HK Law)

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