By Janet Portman, Attorney
Customs or immigration officials may conduct warrantless searches without probable cause not only at borders, but at their "functional equivalents," such as international airports. Essentially, neither citizens nor noncitizens have Fourth Amendment rights in these situations.
Border officials may stop motorists at fixed checkpoints that are reasonably located relative to the border, to question motorists even in the absence of reasonable suspicion of a crime, let alone probable cause. (United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976).)
Officials on roving patrol generally need reasonable suspicion before they can stop a car.
Whether the stop and search in your case was valid will depend on the facts and this complex, evolving body of law. You'll need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to know where you case falls within the "valid-not-valid" spectrum of cases.
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