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Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Justices allow border searches of car gas tanks

March 31, 2004

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— The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that government agents could search and even dismantle a car's gas tank as part of drug and other smuggling interdiction at the nation's borders.

Border officers can randomly search gas tanks, despite the absence of specific indication that a particular car is suspect, the high court said. People crossing the border have less expectation of privacy than elsewhere, and searching the inner reaches of a car is not the same thing as a strip search or other intrusive search of the driver, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the court.

"The government's interest in preventing the entry of unwanted persons and effects is at its zenith at the international border," Rehnquist wrote.

The case is United States v. Flores-Montano, 02-1794.

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