In this paper we will strive to answer several legal questions regarding the search and seizure of digital property at the United States border by U.S. customs officials. In a hypothetical scenario, a defendant crossed the border with illicit materials such as child pornography saved in a folder on his laptop. This brings up several legal questions regarding the status of laptops: Is reasonable suspicion required for border searches of laptop computers? Are laptops distinguishable from other containers or documents crossing the border?
This argument has been made because of the large capacity of modern computers and the personal nature of their content; in fact, some have argued that a computer is akin to a home in that regard. In our paper, we will use legal precedent pertaining to digital property in order to resolve these pressing issues. We will also be exploring the ethical issues and implications of this question as it relates to Computer Science 82.
The George W. Bush administration first authorized border agents to seize and view the contents of laptops, smartphones, and other devices and copy and share data with other government agencies without need for any individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.
[...] Justice Brennan acknowledges in his dissent the need for questioning, patdowns, and other searches at international boreders. More involved searches and questioning may take place if officials have ―reasonable suspicion‖ of a crime, but at some the length and nature of the detention may necessitate the rights afforded during arrest: Miranda warnings, a phone call, etc. Brennan suggests that the number of persons entering the U.S. who are innocent of all crimes but are nonetheless subject to indefinite detention may be quite high, and that these detentions (when not based on reasonable and articulable suspicions) are violative of the Fourth Amendment. [...]
[...] an issuing magistrate must meet two tests. He must be neutral and detached, and he must be capable of determining whether probable cause exists for the requested arrest or search. This Court long has insisted that inferences of probable cause be drawn by "a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime." Johnson v. United States, supra, at 14; Giordenello v. United States, supra, at 486.‖ Additionally, ―The majority makes little attempt to justify this rule in terms of recognized Fourth Amendment values. [...]
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