How do my rights apply during security checks? - Police Encounters - Know My Rights

How do my rights apply during security checks?

Be aware that private security personnel outnumber police officers in the United States by three to one. As a result, you may be more likely to be confronted by a security guard than by a police officer. You must also be aware of the following places where security personnel (governmental or otherwise) are permitted to search you without a warrant:

  • [Border Searches] The Supreme Court has held that an officer does not need a warrant, probable cause or even reasonable suspicion to search you, your car, or your belongings, at a border. Therefore, any time you cross a U.S. border, you in effect consent to a search.
  • [Airport Searches] Be aware that airport security personnel do not need a warrant, probable cause or even reasonable suspicion to search you or your belongings before boarding any commercial airline. Again, any time you board a commercial airline, you in effect consent to a search.
  • [Private Security Checks] Private security personnel have a right to search you as a condition of entry into private property. It is up to the individual to decide if a search is worth the price of admission. As long as you are free to walk away, the security personnel do not pose a threat to your constitutional liberties.

Keep in mind that a security guard can turn illegal drugs over to a police officer. In such a case, the drugs will be admissible as evidence because the search was conducted by a private security guard. The Fourth Amendment does not apply to searches carried out by non-government employees like private security guards.