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Travel Tip: Is It Legal for Customs to Inspect Your Electronics?

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Image Source: Bigstock

Image Source: Bigstock

A growing number of U.S. citizens returning from trips abroad are being stopped at entry points by customs and immigration officers, and are being asked to surrender their cell phones, laptops, or tablets for inspection.

What is being inspected?

Well…your content, phone numbers, and emails.

Is this illegal?

The U.S. government has maintained for years that is has broad authority to inspect anything entering the country.

Now, legislation introduced by four lawmakers would require the government to have probable cause and seek a warrant to inspect or confiscate your cell phone or computer.

Unless—or until—it becomes law, there are some additional considerations.

What’s the definition of what constitutes grounds for seizure or arrest?

It could be a racy photo of your significant other, a joke in poor taste about this country, or any mention whatsoever that might be construed as terrorist chatter.

Just like the important warning not to make jokes at security checkpoints, the same admonition is true concerning the content on your phones or computers. The less provocative material you have with you, the better.

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