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Judge Rules Federal Agents Can't Legally Search Electronics at the Border Without a Warrant

"One cannot treat an electronic storage device like a handbag."

A special TSA Pre-check lane is seen at Terminal C of the LaGuardia Airport on January 27, 2014 in New York City. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A federal judge has ruled it is unconstitutional for border agents to search laptops and other electronic devices at U.S. borders and airports without first obtaining a warrant.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the ruling Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Jackson said the Fourth Amendment does not give federal agents the legal authority to search the contents of electronics the same as the contents of a bag or suitcase, the National Law Journal reported.

A special TSA Pre-check lane is seen at Terminal C of the LaGuardia Airport on January 27, 2014 in New York City. (John Moore/Getty Images) A special TSA Pre-check lane is seen at Terminal C of the LaGuardia Airport on January 27, 2014 in New York City. (John Moore/Getty Images)

“Given the vast storage capacity of even the most basic laptops, and the capacity of computers to retain metadata and even deleted material, one cannot treat an electronic storage device like a handbag simply because you can put things in it and then carry it onto a plane,” Jackson said.

The decision was handed down after Korean businessman Jae Shik Kim claimed his privacy was violated in December 2012 as he was traveling home from the U.S. Kim said a Department of Homeland Security special agent seized his laptop at an airport and sent it off for a forensic examination.

The Supreme Court issued a similar ruling last year in its Riley v. California decision, in which justices stated that electronic devices generally cannot be searched without a warrant because of the amount of information stored on them.

(H/T: National Law Journal)

Follow Jon Street (@JonStreet) on Twitter

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