Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) released a revised Directive governing searches of electronic devices at the border.  These are the first official revisions CBP has made to its guidelines and procedures for devices since its 2009 Directive.  The new Directive is intended to reflect the evolution of technology over the intervening decade, and CBP’s corresponding need to update its investigative techniques.

Notably (and as in previous CBP Directives), the new Directive does not require officials to obtain a warrant before conducting searches of travelers’ devices—even if the traveler being searched is an American—based on CBP’s position that searches and seizures at the border are exempt from the Fourth Amendment’s “probable cause” requirement.  CBP nevertheless acknowledges that its searches must still meet the Fourth Amendment’s “reasonableness” requirement, which the self-imposed restrictions contained in the Directive are meant to achieve. 
Continue Reading CBP Revises Rules for Border Searches of Electronic Devices

On June 22, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Los Angeles v. Patel, striking down a Los Angeles city ordinance that allowed law enforcement to inspect hotel guest registers on demand as facially unconstitutional.  Writing for a 5-4 majority, Justice Sotomayor held that the ordinance violated the Fourth Amendment by failing to provide for any form of review of search requests before hotels were forced to comply with law enforcement demands.  According to the Court, this failure was fatal to the City of Los Angeles’ argument that the ordinance satisfies the requirements for the administrative search exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Strikes Down Ordinance Authorizing Warrantless Searches of Hotel Records