A federal court this month found that federal agents lacked authority to conduct a warrantless search of a defendant’s laptop seized at an airport, rejecting the government’s argument that it has unfettered authority to search containers at the border to protect the homeland.  The court distinguished laptops from handbags due to their “vast storage capacity” and found that there was little or no reason to suspect that “criminal activity was afoot” at the time the defendant was about to cross the border.  Rather, agents confiscated the laptop before the defendant boarded his plane at Los Angeles International Airport as part of a pre-existing investigation into the defendant for violation of export control laws.  The agents then sent the laptop to San Diego for extensive forensic imaging and searches over an indefinite period of time.  The court held that this amounted to an unreasonable invasion of the defendant’s right to privacy. The court relied in part on...

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