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Brennan Center Applauds Ninth Circuit Decision in United States V. Cotterman

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that border agents need “reasonable suspicion” to perform an extensive search of electronic devices, such as cellphones, tablets and laptops, of travelers entering the country.

March 9, 2013

New York, NY – The Brennan Center for Justice released the following statement today from counsel Michael Price on the Ninth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Cotterman. The en banc ruling creates a “reasonable suspicion” requirement for border agents to search personal property, such as laptops and other electronic devices. The Brennan Center for Justice served as counsel for amici.

“We applaud the Ninth Circuit for recognizing the need to limit the government’s authority to search electronic devices at the border," Price said. "Until now, the government had free reign to search travelers’ personal data at the border, to keep it, copy it, and browse through every line without any reason to suspect criminal activity. But in today’s watershed ruling, the Court drew a line in the sand and recognized that the vast amount of personal information and sensitive data on laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices is worthy of Fourth Amendment protection.”

Read the Ninth Circuit’s decision here. Read the amicus brief here.

For more information or to set up an interview with Michael Price, please contact Seth Hoy at or 646–292–8369.