Cotterman v. United States
(opposing border exception to the Fourth Amendment)

admin Searches and Seizures

Cotterman was a Fourth Amendment case about whether the federal government can seize a laptop at a border checkpoint and copy the contents without a warrant, probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion.  Cotterman was convicted based on such a search, and he sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  CLDEF’s amicus curiae brief, in support of the petitioner, argued that the case should not be analyzed based on non-textual “reasonable expectation of privacy” standards, but instead involved a “general search” absolutely prohibited by the Fourth Amendment.  This would be no different than if the government seized a person’s firearms and copied down the serial numbers as part of a general search to see if they were stolen.  CLDEF’s effort in this case continues to press for a revitalized Fourth Amendment principle to protect property, not just some watered-down notion of a reasonable expectation of privacy — an expectation which is rapidly shrinking in the digital age.

The Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari on January 13, 2014.

CLDEF Amicus Curiae Brief in Support of Petition for Certiorari (September 9, 2013)

SCOTUSblog Case Page