Here’s something fundamental to note regarding the important realm of search and seizure in criminal law, which we stress on our website at the proven criminal defense firm of Robertson, Oswalt, Nony & Associates (with numerous offices across Arkansas): “It is critical to know when law enforcement has the right to reach into your pocket.”

All our readers should know that law enforcers’ prerogative to do so is checked by legal safeguards. We underscore on our site that citizens absolutely need to know that they can often refuse consent to a search. We note that authorities “will often rely upon a person not being aware of this right” and follow up that hopeful presumption with coercive or bullying tactics aimed at extracting evidence that lawfully should be exempt from their reach.

As pointed out by a commentator in a recent article spotlighting a search that occurred on an airplane arriving in New York City from San Francisco, such tactics were arguably employed by federal customs agents who told all passengers to produce their “documents” before deplaning. Agents were allegedly looking for an individual subject to a deportation order, who turned out not to be on the plane.

Every person on the plane complied, despite authorities’ clear lack of any probable cause to suspect any particular passenger of wrongdoing. As the article’s writer notes (he is a law professor, and was seconded in his view by prominent constitutional law experts), no law provides for a warrantless and probable cause-free search of any individual in the United States who is on a domestic flight.

And yet that is what was done. Interestingly, a customs official stated that passengers’ compliance was purely voluntary. In response to that, we might simply refer readers back to our above point that law enforcers often rely upon (and take actions to promote) public ignorance of that right when it exists.

In commenting on the matter, one of the aforementioned legal experts stated that, “We do not live in a ‘show me your papers’ society.”

Obviously, that can no longer be said in unqualified sense, given the story just related and other emerging tales regarding police conduct that transcends constitutional limitations on actions that impinge the liberty interests of private citizens.

Questions or concerns regarding search and seizure or any other aspect of a criminal law investigation can be directed to an experienced criminal defense attorney.