7th Circuit Decides Border Search of Electronic Device Was Backed by Reasonable Suspicion

In a somewhat lengthy opinion that does not reach firm conclusions, the 7th Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress in a child pornography case. The critical question here is, when law enforcement is conducting a search at an international border, what’s the legal standard to search say…….a cell phone?

The Government claimed that no suspicion was required. The Defendant claimed a warrant was required, or at least reasonable suspicion. After reviewing a number of cases, the 7th Circuit seemed to lean towards saying the standard was reasonable suspicion, though they never really said it.

Instead, they did say that they disagreed with the Defendant and found that there was reasonable suspicion based on the evidence adduced when the Defendant arrived from the Phillipines at O’Hare International Airport.

Alternatively, the Seventh Circuit also said that, given the state of the law when it comes to a search of an electronic device at a border, that officers were acting in good faith when they conducted the search of the phone.

The case is United States v. Wanjiku, 919 F.3d 472, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8154, 7th Cir. (March 19, 2019).

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