A trip to the airport in New York can be a harrowing experience at the best of times. It is even more unpleasant for passengers who are stopped or detained. Airport security officers can be domineering and unpleasant, but that does not mean they have the right to all of the information they are requesting.
It is important for passengers to know their rights before they enter the airport. As Forbes states, airport security agents have great leeway when searching through passenger baggage, but passengers often offer more information than they are legally required to provide. For example, the full body scanners that have become a ubiquitous site in airport security are optional. Passengers simply need to tell security officers that they do not wish to enter. Similarly, while security officers may apply pressure to passengers to display their personal documents or allow their baggage to be inspected, they have no authority to require compliance after passengers have successfully passed through airport security.
Another important consideration for airport passengers is access to their phones and other electronic devices. In an article about electronics access at border security checkpoints, the New York Times points out that while border agents have more authority to search than police officers patrolling the streets, they do not have unlimited power. While a passenger may have to hand over his or her phone or laptop for inspection, they have no legal obligation to unlock it or provide passwords to social media accounts. Passengers should also remember that they have the right to an attorney’s counsel if officers detain or question them at the airport.