Customs Searches

If you are trying to enter a country and they try to search you, can you just say nevermind and go back without a hassle?

Don’t listen to bigneck.

Stop telling people not to listen to me. I have so much to say.

The Fourth Amendment is not implicated at border searches conducted by the Customs Service. By attempting to enter the country, you consent to the search.

May you withdraw that consent?

I’m not sure. I’ve never seen case law on this, although someone must have tried it. I’ll noodle around this afternoon and see if anything comes up.

  • Rick

I very much doubt it. Attempting to bring contraband into the country is illegal, changing your mind just as you were about to be caught would be too late.

Also, possession of certain substances is itself illegal, either side of the customs point.

If you objected to any import duty imposed you would be able to re-export the goods without penalty but not declaring them would be a no no.

This experience is kind of related (not entirely, though, since airports do need tight security, of course). I was in an airport and wanted to go to a shop to buy something, and had to go through the metal detector to get there. I buzzed it, my brother was already across, I didn’t want to fool with emptying my pockets, so I told him to go ahead and buy it for me, and I’d just wait. They told me I had to go through the whole “emptying pockets thing” anyway, so I did, of course. Don’t know what would have happened if I had resisted, but I doubt it would have been good.

…ebius sig. This is a moebius sig. This is a mo…
(sig line courtesy of WallyM7)

Is there case law on this? I ask because there was just an article off the AP wire about a Ninth Circuit decision barring the Border Patrol from using Hispanic appearance of drivers as a factor in deciding to make a vehicle stop. The story referenced a 1975 USSC decision but didn’t cite the specific case, and the decision (“in the case of German Espinoza Montero Camargo and Lorenzo Sanchez Guillen” although again no specific case cite, damn AP) applied to the “Border Patrol” and I don’t know what relation the Border Patrol has with US Customs. Without having a case in front of me I don’t know the reasoning behind the decisions, but what else would it be besides Fourth Amendment?

As for what would happen if one withdrew consent to be searched, I would think the Border Patrol or Customs would refuse one entry to the country, but that would interfere with one’s Constitutional right to travel. I have a feeling that the law-and-order Supremes would rule that the government’s interest in catching smugglers and illegal immigrants is compelling and outweighs the individual’s right to travel.

Hey Bigneck and/or Flat U. Lance,

Don’t think you’re fooling anyone that you’re not the same person nor an adult. This is at least the second thread where Bigneck has immediately insulted FUL.

Wrong thinking is punished, right thinking is just as swiftly rewarded. You’ll find it an effective combination.

Hey AWB,

This is Flat U. Lance: :cool:

This is bigneck: :confused:

Getting turned back by Customs is no big deal, they’ll just confiscate all your possessions and let you in the country butt-naked (after probing your orifices for contraband.)

It’s getting through immigration that’s the rub. A guy stuck in the Paris airport…

I have an awful time in customs. Once, coming back from Europe, I was dressed in a trenchcoat and dark glasses, looking just like Natasha Fatale, and I was carrying my Mom’s breathing machine, which couldn’t look more like a bomb if it had BOMB written on it. I was searched, felt up, half my clothing removed (while my mother and sister stood by and giggled, I might add).

I also have trouble with my hairpins setting off the metal detector (except in L.A., which does not speak highly of their metal detector!). I have to take down my hair and shake it out, Rita Hayworth fashion.

I see detective work is one of your strengths. Dazzling.

:: Test Post. Please ignore this post. If there are multiposts above, please ignore them too.::

If it’s a ground border crossing you’d have to submit to the search because you can’t drive backwards through those things.

I doubt they’d let you into the country just to turn around.

I’m a political prisoner trapped in a windowless cage
Cuz I stopped the slaughter of turnips by killing five men in a rage.

Flat U. Lance and bigneck, I don’t know what’s going on between you two. More importantly, I don’t care.

Knock it off whilst on this message board.

Off-hand, I’d say that if your request to “go back” created a reasonable suspicion that you had something to hide, it would be possible to detain you. If not, you could go back, assuming that the other country permitted you to reenter.


Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe: the starry skies above me and the moral law within me. – Kant

IIRC, there’s a difference between searches conducted at a border checkpoint, which are admininstrative in nature and designed to enforce the regulations about what may be brought into the country, and the Border Patrol driving around near the border and stopping people who look like they may have illegally crossed. The latter clearly implicates the Fourth Amendment; the former does not.

Case law. Give me a day. I have this new Pyroto addiction, and it’s making it hard to feed my SD addiction too :slight_smile:

  • Rick

I was at an airport and I saw a sign in front of the baggage X-ray machine that said “You have the right to refuse to be searched.” I thought that was interesting, and then I read the next line…“If you refuse search we will not admit you.”

I don’t know how it is here, but I’ve been in big trouble at borders. Once, going from Vienna to Athens the train through (then) Yougoslavia was delayed a few hours and my one-day transit visa had expired. I didn’t know because it was not in a language I spoke. I couldn’t get into Greece, and couldn’t return to Yougoslavia. I spent nearly 3 days in the station, with my bags and passport in the hands of a guard, until the bureaucrats reopened on Monday and gave me another 1 day transit visa, which I no longer needed, really, because I was now in Greece. But there you go. If I’d had anything undesirable on my person that day, I have no doubt I’d still be in the station.