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United States v. Sultanov

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  1. First Amendment

Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Date Filed: Oct. 3, 2023

Background: In March 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped Kurbonali Sultanov at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he was returning from a trip abroad, and conducted a warrantless search of his cellphone in pursuit of evidence of a crime unrelated to border control.

Sultanov filed a motion to suppress evidence the government obtained during the warrantless search, arguing that it violated the Fourth Amendment. The government countered that the search fell within the border search exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.

Our Position: The Reporters Committee and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University argue that the district court should hold that the government’s warrantless searches of Sultanov’s cellphone violated the First and Fourth Amendments.

  • Government searches of electronic devices at the border intrude on Fourth Amendment privacy interests and burden First Amendment freedoms.
  • The government’s warrantless searches of Sultanov’s cellphone were unconstitutional.

Quote: “Journalists traveling across the border should not have to fear that the government could — without court approval or reason to suspect a crime — sift through the sensitive work product and confidential source communications stored on their electronic devices,” Reporters Committee Staff Attorney Grayson Clary said in a Knight Institute press release. “The Constitution requires a warrant.”

Related: The Reporters Committee has filed several friend-of-the-court briefs related to warrantless searches of electronic devices, including in Carpenter v. United States, United States v. Xiang, and Alasaad v. Wolf.

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