Immigration Lawyers New York



Searches and Seizures: Mail

Can USPS open your mail or mail addressed to you? Can a private carrier such as FedEx or UPS do so? What are the standards for the search of mail en route to its destination? See what courts have to say about these issues in the section below.

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California v. Greenwood Et Al. (1988)
The Honorable Justice BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL joins, dissenting:
Nor is it dispositive that "respondents placed their refuse at the curb for the express purpose of conveying it to a third party, . . . who might himself have sorted through respondents' trash or permitted others, such as the police, to do so." [...] [E]ven the voluntary relinquishment of possession or control over an effect does not necessarily amount to a relinquishment of a privacy expectation in it. Were it otherwise, a letter or package would lose all Fourth Amendment protection when placed in a mailbox or other depository with the "express purpose" of entrusting it to the postal officer or a private carrier; those bailees are just as likely as trash collectors (and certainly have greater incentive) to "sort through" the personal effects entrusted to them, "or permit others, such as police to do so." Yet, it has been clear for at least 110 years that the possibility of such an intrusion does not justify a warrantless search by police in the first instance.

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