United States v. Romm, 455 F.3d 990 (9th Cir. 2006) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
The defendant had arrived at an airport in British Columbia when his laptop was searched after the Canadian customs agent discovered the defendant had a criminal history. After discovering child pornography sites in the laptop’s “[[internet] history,” the defendant was denied entry into Canada and flown to a Seattle airport. After the Canadian authorities informed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the contents of the defendant’s laptop, ICE detained the defendant when he arrived in Seattle, who then agreed to allow ICE agents to examine his laptop. ICE agents used a forensic analysis which recovered deleted child pornography from the laptop. Before trial, the trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained from his laptop.
Appellate Court Proceedings Edit
The Ninth Circuit held that the forensic analysis used by the ICE agents fell under the border search exception. First, the court noted that airport terminals were “the functional equivalents” of a border, allowing customs agents to conduct routine border searches of deplaning passengers. The court then proceeded to classify the search of the defendant’s laptop as “routine.” However, the court did so only after declining on procedural grounds to consider the defendant’s contention that the search’s intrusion upon his First Amendment interests qualified it as non-routine.