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Don't Cross That Border!

Dan Williams, Esq.

Are you 19 and hoping to go to Canada to celebrate your birthday? If so, make sure you don't have anything illegal in the car. The United States Court of Appeals ruled last week that, even if you don't cross the border and are simply turning around after a mistaken turn, your car can be searched under the border search exception to the Fourth Amendment.

In the case of D.E. v. Doe, the Defendant, a 19 year old student, made a wrong turn looking for his summer camp. He turned into the border crossing from the US to Canada. After telling the initial officer that he had made a wrong turn and was not intending to cross the border, the officer directed him to turn around. Entering traffic with incoming vehicles from Canada, his vehicle was searched, and Border Patrol confiscated marijuana and drug paraphernalia. D.E. was convicted locally of a state misdemeanor, and subsequently sued the officers in Federal Court for violating his Fourth Amendment rights. The appeals court found that his subjective intent not to cross the border did not create an exception to the Fourth Amendment's border search exception, and his claims were dismissed.

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