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Court curtails border agents' cellphone searches

A hand holds a phone up to a grated border wall.
A woman holds up a phone for her relative to see at the border fence in Tijuana. Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

A federal appeals court has ruled that border agents cannot do automated forensic searches of cellphones without reason to suspect their owners committed a crime — and they actually might need a warrant even then.

Why it matters: Border agents have extremely broad authority to detain and search people coming into the country — so much so that agents have more or less taken free rein to search devices of anybody they choose.