Some US Airports Are Searching Cars Parked by Valets Without Your Presence or Consent

If you’re not aware of this parking issue in the US, you should be …

The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This right is apparently being violated by a number of airports in their Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved security plans.

According to a recent AP article, workers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport commonly search cars travelers leave with valet parking. The airport’s aviation director (Jack Christine) says any vehicle dropped off at the airport’s curbside is subject to being searched, and workers have been doing that for the past year-and-a-half.

Christine says if the no-notice searches find anything suspicious, law officers are called to take a look.

An article in Mother Jones‘ reported that a New York woman who valeted her car at Greater Rochester International Airport returned to find a notice on her car informing her that it had been searched without her consent.

The article goes on to say that not only does TSA approve searches of the trunks and interior of unattended cars in an undefined perimeter that’s considered
dangerously close to the airport—like a car left with valet parking—but if a valet attendant finds illegal drugs instead of bombs, they will call the police.

Similar searches without owner consent also appear to have been occuring at San Diego International Airport for the past two years.

Mother Jones reported that not all airports handle valet car searches the same way. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Nashville International and Logan Airport in Boston search the car while the driver is present. If the driver objects then they are directed to another parking location.

The justification for the violation from some legal experts seems to be that you’ve voluntarily turned the property over to someone else (the valet) or some obscure notices have been posted at the airport stating that cars are subject to search; however, other legal experts strongly argue against this interpretation.

I don’t know about you, but when I valet park I have a reasonable expectation that things stored in my dash, my trunk, etc. are off limits to a valet or anyone else unless they have my express permission to search or have a duly executed warrant.


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