United States v. Ickes, 393 F.3d 501 (4th Cir. 2005) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
A customs official searched the defendant’s van near the Canadian border after discovering during a routine search a videotape that focused excessively on a young ballboy during a tennis match. After a more thorough search, they discovered marijuana paraphernalia, a photo album containing child pornography, a computer, and several computer disks. Customs officials examined the contents of the computer and disks, all of which contained additional child pornography. The defendant would later file a motion, which was denied by the trial court, seeking to suppress the contents of the computer and disks on both First and Fourth Amendment grounds.
Appellate Court Proceedings Edit
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the search of the defendant’s computer and disks did not violate either the First or Fourth Amendment. The court first noted that the border search exception applied in this case. Furthermore, the court rejected the defendant’s contention that the First Amendment bars the border search exception from being applied to “expressive” materials, stating that it would “create a sanctuary for all expressive materials — including terrorist plans” and that a First Amendment exception would cause an excessive amount of administrative difficulties for those who would have to enforce it. The court concluded by indicating that, even though searches of computers and disks fall under the border search exception, “[a]s a practical matter, computer searches are most likely to occur where — as here — the traveler’s conduct or the presence of other items in his possession suggest the need to search further,” indicating that such searches will typically only occur if supported by reasonable suspicion.