Airports: What are my Rights?

by sbanerjee on September 5, 2013

With recent events in the UK concerning the detainment of the partner of a journalist covering the Edward Snowden affair, rights at airports have become more prevalent in popular discourse.

David Miranda, who lives in Brazil, was detained in London’s Heathrow airport for almost nine hours as was reported by the Guardian this week. He is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who was the Guardian reporter that interviewed Snowden, igniting the NSA scandal. Britain maintains a terrorism act that provides police the power to stop, hold, and question individuals for up to nine hours. They don’t even need reason to be suspicious, and the individual stopped does not even have an attorney during the questioning. During that time, police can (and did) confiscate any belongings you might have, and return it a week later.

With increased pressure on UK authorities to justify such a detention, it brings to question what rights you have at airports. Many people travel unaware of what rights are granted or forfeit in airports as it differs by country.

These issues cover rights specific to entry/exit points in the United States.

Questioning: SPOT (Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) programs at airports require questioning of some or all passengers in certain areas. You might be asked anything from where your final destination is to the reason for your visit. You can decline to answer these questions (politely), but as a result you may be subject to further screening.

Millimeter wave Body Scanners: Different from the conventional metal detector, these devices generated an image of your body that many have argued is too revealing or an invasion of privacy. If you feel uncomfortable going through such a machine, you can inform a TSA agent. You can also opt out your children. However, you will receive a pat down instead. As such, it depends on what you are more comfortable with.

Entering the US: Even with valid documentation, you can be stopped and searched by customs officers. However, they cannot search you simply because of your race, gender, or religion.

Immigration Status: Law enforcement maintains the ability to determine if you are authorized to return to or enter the US.

Interviews: If you are returning to the US and taking in for an extended interview, things are a bit more complicated. If you are an American citizen, you have the right to an attorney during your questioning. For those who are not citizens, they may not have a right to see a lawyer during questioning. However, if the interview goes beyond the questioning of immigration status, they can be given access to an attorney. You may also request to conduct the interview at a later time, but this may not be approved.

Bag Searches: Even if your bags went through x-ray and nothing showed up at all, TSA can still search your baggage.

Strip Searches: This is not conventional at entry points, and there a law enforcement official must have reason for suspicion to carry out such a search. It must also be done in a private area.

WT Johnson serves as a personal injury law firm in Dallas, Texas. The team at WT provides free consultations to inform the public about their rights in particular settings.

WT Johnson is the head of a personal injury law firm in Dallas, Texas. The team offers free consultations, informing the public of the rights they have.

Latest posts by sbanerjee (see all)

Previous post:

Next post: