The Answer to That Is It Depends
Video Transcribed: Can I refuse a search at the airport? My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Today, we’re going to talk about whether or not you can refuse a search at the airport.
The answer to that is it depends. If you were approached in the parking lot of the airport by a uniformed police officer, for instance, or anybody with a badge in the parking lot, and they asked to search you, then yes, you can refuse that. You’re out in the parking lot. If they don’t have probable cause, you do not have to consent.
Now, it’s a little bit of a different situation if you were talking about going through the security gates or going through customs. When you go through the security gate, you are implicitly consenting to a search as a condition of being allowed into the secured area of the airport.
So that search, they do not need probable cause for. Furthermore, anytime you pass through a port of entry into or out of the United States, ie., the customs line, again, basically, you are subject to a search without probable cause.
That’s a different situation than if you were out in public. Out in public, the cops would need probable cause if they want to stop you and search you, other than if it’s pursuant to a Terry frisk, which is a discussion for another day, other than to say that if they have reasonable suspicion you’re carrying a weapon, they can frisk you to see if you have a weapon if they would otherwise have a reason to stop you. But when you go through the security gate at the airport or when you go through customs at the airport, you are essential, as I said, you are subject to search.