Contact Us
    Contact Us

    Please use the contact form to send us an email - and receive a response within 12 hours.

    Emergency? Call 720-220-2277 (24/7)








Map To Our Office
Read Out Blog
Case Evaluation
Charged With A Crime?

Your Legal Rights – Searches At Airports and Other Ports of Entry Into The United States

Denver, Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer H. Michael Steinberg

Airport Searches Denver

Drug Searches At US Airports

It is illegal for law enforcement officers to perform any stops, searches, detentions or removals based solely on your race, national origin, religion, sex or ethnicity. However, Customs and Border Protection officials can stop you based on citizenship or travel itinerary at the border and search all bags.

Q: What types of officers could I encounter at the airport and at the border?

A: You may encounter any of the full range of law enforcement officers listed above in Section I. In particular, at airports and at the border you are likely to encounter customs agents, immigration officers, and Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) officers.

Q: If I am entering the U.S. with valid travel papers, can law enforcement officers stop and search me?

A: Yes. Customs officers have the right to stop, detain and search any person or item. But officers cannot select you for a personal search based on your race, gender, religious or ethnic background. If you are a non-citizen, you should carry your green card or other valid immigration status documents at all times.

Q: Can law enforcement officers ask questions about my immigration status?

A: Yes. At airports, law enforcement officers have the power to determine whether or not you have the right or permission to enter or return to the U.S.

Q: If I am selected for a longer interview when I am coming into the United States, what can I do?

A: If you are a U.S. citizen, you have the right to have an attorney present for any questioning. If you are a non-citizen, you generally do not have the right to an attorney when you have arrived at an airport or another port of entry and an immigration officer is inspecting you to decide whether or not you will be admitted. However, you do have the right to an attorney if the questions relate to anything other than your immigration status.  

You can ask an officer if he or she will allow you to answer extended questioning at a later time, but the request may or may not be granted. If you are not a U.S. citizen and an officer says you cannot come into the U.S., but you fear that you will be persecuted or tortured if sent back to the country you came from, tell the officer about your fear and say that you want asylum.

Q: Can law enforcement officers search my laptop files? If they do, can they make copies of the files, or information from my address book, papers, or cell phone contacts?

A: This issue is contested right now. Generally, law enforcement officers can search your laptop files and make copies of information contained in the files. If such a search occurs, you should write down the name, badge number, and agency of the person who conducted the search. You should also file a complaint with that agency.

Q: Can my bags or I be searched after going through metal detectors with no problem or after security sees that my bags do not contain a weapon?

A: Yes. Even if the initial screen of your bags reveals nothing suspicious, the screeners have the authority to conduct a further search of you or your bags.

Q: What if I wear a religious head covering and I am selected by airport security officials for additional screening?

A: You have the right to wear religious head coverings. You should assert your right to wear your religious head covering if asked to remove it. The current policy (which is subject to change) relating to airport screeners and requiring removal of religious head coverings, such as a turban or hijab, is that if an alarm goes off when you walk through the metal detector the TSA officer may then use a hand-wand to determine if the alarm is coming from your religious head covering. If the alarm is coming from your religious head covering the TSA officer may want to pat-down or have you remove your religious head covering.

You have the right to request that this pat-down or removal occur in a private area. If no alarm goes off when you go through the metal detector the TSA officer may nonetheless determine that additional screening is required for non-metallic items. Additional screening cannot be required on a discriminatory basis (because of race, gender, religion, national origin or ancestry). The TSA officer will ask you if he or she can pat-down your religious head covering.

If you do not want the TSA officer to touch your religious head covering you must refuse and say that you would prefer to pat-down your own religious head covering. You will then be taken aside and a TSA officer will supervise you as you pat-down your religious head covering. After the pat-down the TSA officer will rub your hands with a small cotton cloth and place it in a machine to test for chemical residue.

If you pass this chemical residue test, you should be allowed to proceed to your flight. If the TSA officer insists on the removal of your religious head covering you have a right to ask that it be done in a private area.

Q: What if I am selected for a strip search?

A: A strip search at the border is not a routine search and must be supported by “reasonable suspicion,” and must be done in a private area.

Q: If I am on an airplane, can an airline employee interrogate me or ask me to get off the plane?

A: The pilot of an airplane has the right to refuse to fly a passenger if he or she believes the passenger is a threat to the safety of the flight. The pilot’s decision must be reasonable and based on observations of you, not stereotypes.

Q: What do I do if I am questioned by law enforcement officers every time I travel by air and I believe I am on a “no-fly” or other “national security” list?

A: If you believe you are mistakenly on a list you should contact the Transportation Security Administration and file an inquiry using the Traveler Redress Inquiry Process. The form is available at  ttp://www.tsa.gov/travelers/customer/redress/index.shtm.

If you have questions about….

Your Legal Rights At United States Airports and Other of Entry Into The United States

H. Michael Steinberg has been a Colorado criminal law specialist attorney for 30 years (as of 2012). For the First 13 years of his career, he was an Arapahoe – Douglas County District Attorney Senior  prosecutor. In 1999 he formed his own law firm for the defense of Colorado criminal cases.

In addition to handling tens of thousands of cases in the trial courts of Colorado, he has written hundreds of articles regarding the practice of Colorado criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Various National and Local Newspapers and Radio Stations.  Please call him at your convenience at 720-220-2277

If you have questions about Your Legal Rights – Searches At Airports and Other Ports of Entry Into The United States in the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg will be pleased to answer those questions and to provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters.


Other Articles of Interest:

If you found the information provided on this webpage to be helpful, please click my Plus+1 button so that others may also find it.

___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
DTC Quadrant Building
5445 DTC Parkway, Penthouse 4
Greenwood Village, Colorado, 80111
Primary Web Site:  http://www.HMichaelSteinberg.com
Colorado Criminal Law Blog:  www.Colorado-Criminal-Lawyer-Online.com
Main:  303.627.7777
Cell:  720.220.2277
24/7 Pager:  303.543.4433
FAX (Toll Free):  1.877.533.6276
Always investigate a lawyer's qualifications and experience before making a
decision to retain that lawyer or, for that matter, any professional ...in any field.