This is the Lukeville, AZ border crossing where Cotterman’s laptop was seized.

Alan Levine

On Monday, the Supreme Court let stand a March 2013 ruling that established—at least in the Ninth Circuit in the western United States—that extended and sophisticated forensic analysis of a digital device requires a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
The case, United States v. Cotterman, involves an American man who was driving back into the country from Mexico with his wife in 2007 and had his laptop cursorily searched, with a more advanced search then performed at a government facility 170 miles away.

The Supreme Court declined to hear Howard Cotterman’s appeal of the legality of the extensive search.
As part of a routine check, a border computer system returned a hit for Cotterman—he is a sex offender convicted on several counts, including child molestation in 1992.

The agents then searched his car, finding two laptops and three digital cameras, which they also inspected. Those devices had several password-protected files.

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