Tampa Federal Criminal Defense Attorney has reviewed Government policies on Search and Seizure of Electronic Devices at borders. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policy is to treat computers, laptops, and other electronic devices like suitcases and backpacks in terms of border searches. It appears under current DHS policy, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents believe they are not required to provide justification or a reason for these electronic searches.
In a response to a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, CBP disclosed the following: Electronic devices that were searched included laptops, USB thumb drives, hard drives, cell phones, digital cameras, and even DVD disks . From October 2008 through June 2009, CBP officials searched over 1,500 electronic devices belonging to travelers.
Cell phones were the most often searched and seized devices between October 2008 and June 2009. From July 2008 to June 2009, and Border Protection (CBP) transferred electronic files found on travelers’ devices to third-party agencies almost 300 times. More than 80 percent of the transfers involved the CBP making copies of travelers’ files. Over half the time, these unknown agencies asserted independent bases for retaining or seizing the transferred files.
As a defense attorney, it appears that the best strategy when traveling is to leave electronic devices at home.
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Federal Defense Attorney on Search and Seizure of Electronic Devices