Protecting Our Perimeter: 'Border Searches' under the Fourth Amendment [Updated May 14, 2003] [open pdf - 90KB]
"Many border security initiatives were developed after the events of September 11, 2001. Because security initiatives often maintain a search and seizure component, Fourth Amendment implications may arise. The Fourth Amendment establishes that a search or seizure conducted by a governmental agent must be reasonable, and that probable cause support any judicially granted warrant. An invalid 'search' is an infringement of an expectation of privacy that society is prepared to consider reasonable. A 'seizure' of a person occurs when a government official makes an individual reasonably believe that he or she is not at liberty to ignore the governments presence in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident. The Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment to include a presumptive warrant requirement on all searches and seizures conducted by the government, and has ruled that any violations of this standard will result in the suppression of any information derived therefrom [sic]. The Court, however, has also recognized situations that render the obtainment of a warrant impractical or against the public's interest, and has accordingly crafted various exceptions to the warrant and probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31826