Case brief: United States v. Aukai.

Last one, folks. This might be of more general interest, for reasons I outline below.

United States v. Aukai is unusual for a couple of reasons:

  1. Unlike all of our other case briefs, this was not a Supreme Court decision, but an en banc ruling by the notoriously flaky (with the exception of the honorable Judge Alex Kozinski, praise be unto him) Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  2. This is specifically a case involving airport security and the limits of TSA’s ability to perform searches.

In Aukai’s case, he made the mistake of trying to get through airport security with a meth pipe in his pocket and meth on his person. Even dumber, he made the mistake of doing this without ID, which meant he was automatically selected for secondary screening. During the secondary screening, Aukai tried to withdraw consent and leave the secured area of the airport: TSA detained him, and eventually discovered the meth pipe and meth.

Aukai challenged his conviction for possession with intent to distribute on the grounds that once he stated he didn’t want to be searched and went to leave the secured area, the TSA had no authority to detain and continue searching him; thus, the meth pipe and meth were products of an “unreasonable” search and seizure and should be excluded as evidence against him.

Here’s the brief.

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