The Court saw "no reason why the Fourth Amendment would require suspicion for a forensic search of an electronic device when it imposes no such requirement for a search of other personal property." The Court refused to afford electronic devices "special treatment" just "because so many people now own them or because they can store vast quantities of records or effects," as border agents continued to bear the responsibility of preventing the importation of contraband regardless of advances in technology. Only highly intrusive border searches of a person's body required suspicion, and that reasoning did not apply to electronic devices. The Court acknowledged that the Fourth and Ninth Circuits have required reasonable suspicion for forensic searches of electronic devices at the border, but the Court was "unpersuaded" by them. The Court's recent decision in Vergara made clear that the Supreme Court's decision in Riley does not apply to border searches. And it failed to see why a traveler's privacy should be given greater weight than the interest in protecting territorial sovereignty, as the Fourth and Ninth Circuits have suggested. The Court suggested that doing so would "create special protection" for child pornography offenses. The Court also suggested that it was up to Congress to create additional protections beyond what the Fourth Amendment required, and judicial restraint was especially important in this context.
Alternatively, the Court concluded that there was reasonable suspicion based on three separate payments to an account associated with a Philippine phone number, which was associated with an email account containing an image of child pornography. Although those payments occurred over a year earlier, the Court joined other circuits rejecting staleness challenges in the child pornography context, where deleted filed can remain on electronic devices.
Judge Corrigan concurred, but declined to join the core holding because the government argued that no reasonable suspicion was required for the first time on appeal, and it was unnecessary to reach that issue given the existence of reasonable suspicion.