Federal judge: Border searches of cell phones require a warrant

United States v. Smith is a landmark decision in which a district court judge in New York ruled that a warrant is required for a cell phone search at the border, “absent exigent circumstances”. EFF, who have been advocating for a warrant for border searches of electronic devices for nearly a decade, are thrilled about this decision. While the Supreme Court has recognized a border search exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for physical items crossing the border, several courts have circumscribed CBP’s authority where digital data is concerned. The Smith court applied the Riley balancing test and concluded that the same border search exception cannot support its extension to warrantless cell phone searches at the border.


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