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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Search and Seizure at Border Check Points

By Douglas V. Gibbs

The question posed by a reader through email:

Is it constitutional for citizens to be searched (without cause) at Border Patrol check points like just south of Temecula?

I responded:

The purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to guard against general warrants (Writs of Assistance) that were being issued to enable the British Troops to ransack any and all colonial homes since all colonials were listed on the general warrant.  The writs of assistance were issued to enable troops to search for contraband (items without a stamp showing the British tax had been paid on the good), but no specifics were on the warrants giving the British troops the ability to search and seize at will without any limitations.

The Fourth Amendment reads, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The first thing we notice is that it does not say that federal agencies cannot search and seize without a warrant or cause.  It specifically says that warrants, obtained based on probable cause, are necessary for searches and seizures that would otherwise be considered unreasonable.  So, the question on the table is, "Is a search at Border Patrol check points reasonable?"

The ransacking of colonial homes, and a general warrant not naming specifically what was to be found and where it was could be considered by most as being an unreasonable search. The Fourth Amendment guards against such a thing.  However, in relation to the reality that it is often difficult to determine if the border entrant is illegal, or not, or if the entrant is bringing into the country items that are legally prohibited, especially when we have example after example of illegals lying, it would seem reasonable for those searches to take place at check points.

If the check point search and seizure are unreasonable, then probable cause and a warrant are needed.  If it is reasonable to expect the possibility of a search and seizure at a check point designed to protect the country from those who have illegally entered our country, than the answer is "no."

A private business, in the age of violence, terrorism, and snowflakes is surely within reason to search at the entryway of their place of business any large bags or suspicious looking items, so why could that not be a reasonable search for the U.S. Government?

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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