Border Searches Involving Computers, with Judge Eugene Hyman, Santa Clara, California

Historically, borders have been treated much differently than the interiors of the country, because once a person crosses in, they are able to dispose of their property more readily, making it less likely the government will be able to obtain a warrant to search possessions. 

Since 9/11, it has become even more difficult to cross the border without a search, especially searches of computers with respect to concealing terrorists plans, says retired Superior Court Judge of Santa Clara, California, Eugene Hyman.

A recent 9th circuit ruling said that searches of electronic devises are far greater intrusions into a traveler's privacy and must be justified by a greater degree of suspicion before the search can occur.  The case revolved around the searching of a computer of a convicted pedophile and the decision was reversed, saying this was an insufficient reason for a seizure without a warrant.

An east coast appellate court ruled the other way, in saying the seizure was appropriate, therefore setting up a potential situation where the matter might go before the U.S. Supreme Court, says Hyman, so that there can be a consistent ruling throughout the U.S.

Hyman asks where the line is drawn - on the one hand, you need a warrant with respect to computers but is one needed with respect to cameras or cell phones?

Honorable Judge Eugene Hyman has received numerous awards and recognition for his work with families and children and has appeared on numerous television news shows. For more information, visit He is also a featured commentator on The Family Law Channel and The Legal Broadcast Network.

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