The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people against unreasonable search and seizure. In other words, absent a warrant, they cannot be searched, and their property cannot be taken by the police as part of a criminal investigation. There are exceptions, though, including border searches. Recently, a Florida court examined a traveler’s constitutional right to be free from searches in a case where the defendant was charged with numerous sex crimes after his phone was taken upon his entry into Florida. If you are accused of a sex offense, it is in your best interest to speak to a Clearwater sex crime defense lawyer about what measures you can take to protect your rights.
Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant returned to Florida after an international cruise. One week prior, the Coast Guard contacted border patrol to inform them that the defendant was the target of a human trafficking investigation. When the defendant arrived at the port, he was detained by border patrol, and his phone was seized and sent to a Homeland Security office, where data was extracted from it and it was analyzed.
Allegedly, about two months later, the police obtained a warrant to search the defendant, largely relying on the information taken from his phone. The defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with ten crimes, including sex trafficking, fraud, and coercion. He moved to suppress the evidence obtained from his phone, arguing that the seizure and search happened without probable cause, a warrant, or exigent circumstances.
Exceptions to the Fourth Amendment Protections
The court ultimately denied the defendant’s motion. In doing so, it explained that the United States’ interest in preventing unwanted people from entering the country is at its apex at international borders. As such, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that searches conducted at the border never need warrants or probable cause.
Further, the court explained that the majority of searches could be conducted without reasonable suspicion, as a search at the border is reasonable solely because it takes place at the border. The court noted that while the United States Supreme Court had not ruled on the discrete issue of border searches involving electronic devices, the Eleventh Circuit held that reasonable suspicion was not required for such searches. As the court was bound by the Eleventh Circuit’s decisions, it denied the defendant’s motion to the extent that it argued that the search and seizure of his phone were unconstitutional.
Talk to an Experienced Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney
A conviction for a sex crime can have lifelong consequences, including being forced to register as a sex offender. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is advisable to talk to an attorney about your potential defenses as soon as possible. The experienced Clearwater attorneys of Hanlon Law can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal outcome available. You can reach Hanlon Law via the online form or by calling 727-897-5413 to set up a conference.