Rights at Airports


IMPORTANT NOTE: It is illegal for any of the following-stops, scans, searches, detentions, or removals to be done to you based on your race, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.

Q: If I'm entering the U.S. with valid travel papers may I be stopped and searched by a U.S. Customs agent?

A: Yes. The Customs Service prevents items like drugs and weapons from being brought in. They have the right to stop and search every person and item. Having valid travel documents will not stop you from being questioned, searched, or detained, but they may help keep the questioning short.

Q: Can my bags or I be searched after going through detectors with no problem, or after security sees that something on the scanners was not a weapon?

A: You give them permission to scan you by buying a ticket and going to the airport. But they do not have the right to search you further if the initial screen does not reveal anything suspicious. Once you or your bag have set off scanners, security may conduct a further search. Courts are divided about whether you can refuse a further search by deciding not to fly and leaving the airport.

Q: If I'm on an airplane, can an airline employee interrogate me or ask me to get off?

A: The pilot (captain) of an airplane has the right to refuse to fly a passenger if he or she believes the passenger is a threat to the safety of the flight. The pilot's decision must be reasonable and based on observations of you, not guesses.


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