Friday, May 23, 2014

U.S. v. $124,570 U.S. Currency case brief summary

U.S. v. $124,570 U.S. Currency
873 F.2d 1240 (9th Cir. 1989)

Generalized Search of all Passengers unconstitutional.
(Mission Creep)
Forfeiture Action (how the suit is against money)
·         Passenger's money was detected by X-Ray Scan by Airport Security.
·         Security officer then informed US Customs in return for a $250 reward.
·         Customs then seized the passenger's money as it contained trace elements of drugs. 
·         Motion to suppress upheld because search is only constitutional if it was to only target risks of security not evidence of general crime.
Broad Issue: To what extent may law enforcement authorities use airport security inspections to promote objectives unrelated to air safety?
Broad Holding: While narrowly defined searches for guns and explosives are constitutional and justified by the need for air traffic safety, a generalized search of all passengers as a condition for boarding a commercial aircraft would plainly be unconstitutional.
The search here does not:
1. Serve a narrow but compelling administrative objective, (there is a working relationship between security and customs including a monetary reward)
2. Was a limited intrusion.

U.S. v. $124,570 U.S. Currency (C.A. 9,1989)
·         Appellant airline passenger went through the security checkpoint at an airport. While the search for weapons was being conducted, the security officer found a large quantity of currency. The officer then notified the United States Customs Service and received a cash reward for her tip.
·         Federal law enforcement had the currency checked with a drug-sniffing dog that indicated that the money had been in contact with some form of illegal drug.
·         Appellee United States then filed a forfeiture motion to obtain the currency. Appellant answered and moved the district court to suppress the evidence due to the unlawful search by the airport security. The district court denied appellant's motion and ordered that the currency be forfeited.
·         Appellant challenged this decision and prevailed on appeal. The court found that the search conducted by airport security was unlawful. Though administrative searches were found to be necessary for weapons in airports, the agent went beyond the scope of her legitimate interest.
·         Further, because she received a reward for the tip, her actions were undistinguishable from law enforcement.
·         The court vacated the district court's order of forfeiture and found that the suppression was proper. The court held that, because the airport security agents were working closely with law enforcement and would receive cash rewards for tips, the agents were abusing the scope of the search which was designed to discover weapons.
·         Policy at airport is to make sure planes take off and land safely
·         Security should make sure of safety, not objectives unrelated to airport safety

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