Judge backs TSA in search lawsuit
A second screening is upheld for a passenger choosing not to board
A man who had gone through initial airport security screening could not back out of additional searches, even though he no longer wanted to board a flight, according to a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The decision Thursday upholds the conviction of Daniel Kuualoha Aukai, who was arrested for crystal methamphetamine possession before boarding a scheduled flight to Kona from Honolulu on Feb. 1, 2003. Aukai was later sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison.
Aukai did not trigger a metal detector when he walked through it at Honolulu Airport, but he was held for an additional search because he had not presented a government-issued photo ID when checking in.
The Circuit Court ruled that even though Aukai said he wanted to leave the terminal without boarding his flight, he was still subject to a secondary search.
"We hold that such passenger cannot prevent the secondary search because such search comports with the Fourth Amendment's requirement that a search be reasonable," according to the San Francisco-based court's opinion, written by Judge Carlos Bea.
Even though neither Aukai nor his luggage caused metal detectors to go off, he still was subject to a more thorough search.
"The events of Sept. 11, 2001 have highlighted that items a passenger could carry in his pocket may be just as dangerous as what his carryon baggage could contain," the ruling said, citing that the terrorists used small knives and box cutters to help in their attack.
After Aukai was pulled aside for an additional search, he tried to leave the roped-off area, saying that he did not want to miss his flight.
Then a Transportation Security Agency officer had Aukai sit in a chair while the officer used a metal-detection wand around Aukai's body.
It alerted the officer to Aukai's pocket. Aukai eventually removed a glass pipe from the pocket, and authorities later found several bags of crystal meth.