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$45,000 Damage Award to Traveler Detained in San Francisco Airport

The plaintiff was awarded $45,000 in compensatory and punitive damages against federal customs inspectors for unlawful detention at an airport on suspicion of drug smuggling.

The plaintiff lacks standing to seek injunctive relief since she is not likely to pass through the San Francisco airport again.

The plaintiff also sought a declaratory judgment that several Customs policies were unconstitutional. The court says that a cash incentive program giving awards to inspectors who found drug smugglers "may very well run afoul of the Fourth Amendment" by creating "perverse law enforcement incentives." (1193) The program "strikes an ominous historical chord as well" because it "bears striking resemblance to British colonial practices that helped to spark the American Revolution and led to the adoption of the Fourth Amendment." (1194) However, the court concludes that the plaintiff lacks standing to seek declaratory relief under Lyons. It rejects Ninth Circuit authority holding that standing for damages establishes standing for equitable relief because other panels have gone the other way. See: Buritica v. United States, 8 F.Supp.2d 1188 (N.D.Cal. 1998).

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Related legal case

Buritica v. United States