Nebraska State Patrol investigators constantly look for reasons to search vehicles traveling Interstate 80 truck stops, hotels, and even train stations. While I-80 itself is considered by law enforcement to be a drug pipeline, police also look at rail lines travelling between Denver and Chicago for trains that often connect from the coasts.
LUGGAGE SEARCHES AND CONSENT
The State Patrol and Omaha Police Department often search trains and the luggage of people on these trains for illegal narcotics. However, not all of these searches are legal.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures. While law enforcement officials frequently find marijuana, methamphetamine, and opioids in luggage on trains, those searches may violate the passengers’ constitutional rights.
While law enforcement certainly has the right to search abandoned luggage and train stations can certainly screen the luggage that comes onto the train, law enforcement may not randomly open suitcases or other personal belongings. Further, a person transporting luggage is not always required to consent to a search of that luggage.
CONSENT TO SEARCH IN TRAINS, AIRPORTS, AND ON PUBLIC ROADS
In some ways, those of us that fly just assume that any three-letter agency (such as the TSA) can search our bags and luggage at will. We assume that if we do not give permission for a search, we will not be allowed to travel. But the searches and scrutiny travelers face on airlines are much more stringent than those found in other methods of travel, including trains.
Unlike airplane travel, those traveling on public roads, highways, and by train have a higher expectation of privacy in their luggage. They are not required to consent to search.
Members of Berry Law who served in the military remember times in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan where we set up checkpoints and searched people traveling by car and train for dangerous weapons and contraband. However, this does not occur in the United States because we have Constitutional rights.
Imagine being stopped by police on the highway and being told you cannot go any further until your vehicle and all your belongings are searched. Our Fourth Amendment prevents these unreasonable searches and seizures from occurring. However, many Americans are unaware that they do not have to consent to these searches. They might never assert their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
HIRING A DEFENSE ATTORNEY
A few months ago, DEA and state patrol officials found over thirty pounds of fentanyl on a train at Omaha’s Amtrack train station in downtown Omaha. Since that time, law enforcement has continued to patrol Omaha train stations and search luggage for methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs.
Sometimes this luggage is legally searched because the owner gives permission. Other times, when law enforcement shows up at the Amtrack station, persons transporting narcotics abandon the luggage and leave the area. There are also situations in which law enforcement finds luggage and searches it, falsely claiming it was abandoned.
If your luggage has been unlawfully searched at the Omaha Amtrack station or any other train station in Omaha, contact Berry Law.
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