Found this...seems to be accurate based on my experience after 23 years USCG....some of you guys need a little more info on warrantless searches, reasonable suspicion and probable cause.
I'd say 99% of the time the USCG requests a warrant to go beyond a safety inspection
even with probable cause because of the US Court System and personal protections.
Warrantless Searches and Seizures - Page 3
The border search exception also applies to searches conducted at the “functional equivalent” of a border, which is defined as the first practical detention point after a border crossing or the final port of entry. The Eleventh Circuit has established three criteria to determine whether a search occurs at the functional equivalent of a border: (1) reasonable certainty that the person or thing crossed the border; (2) reasonable certainty that there was no change in the object of the search since it crossed the border; and (3) reasonable certainty that the search was conducted as soon as practicable after the border crossing. In addition, under the “extended border search” doctrine adopted by several circuits, government
officials may conduct a warrantless search beyond the border, or its functional equivalent, if the following three factors are satisfied: (1) there is “reasonable certainty” or a “high degree of probability” that a border was crossed; (2) there is “reasonable certainty” that no change in the object of the search has occurred between the time of the border crossing and the search; and (3) there is “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity is occurring.
The border search exception allows the government
to conduct warrantless searches for illegal aliens. In United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, the Supreme Court established guidelines for permanent checkpoint stops and searches and held that government officials may stop vehicles at a permanent border checkpoint for brief questioning of the driver and passengers without individualized suspicion. The vehicle and occupants may also be selectively referred to a secondary checkpoint for further questioning without individualized suspicion. Any detention or search beyond this point must be justified by consent or probable cause.
Under certain circumstances, a border search for illegal aliens may justify use of a roving border patrol. A roving border patrol may stop a vehicle in the general area of the border and question its occupants if “specific articulable facts” give rise to reasonable suspicion that the vehicle may contain illegal aliens. The officer who stops the vehicle may inquire about citizenship, immigration status, and suspicious circumstances, but any further detention or search must be based on consent or probable cause.
Searches at Sea. Coast Guard and customs officers are authorized by statute to board any vessel in U.S. territorial waters to conduct routine document and safety
inspections, without a warrant or suspicion of criminal activity, if the vessel is subject to the jurisdiction or operation of U.S. law. Such document and safety inspections are limited to examining documents, visiting the vessel's public areas, examining safety equipment
, and entering the hold to obtain the main beam number. Once on board a vessel, if officers develop reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, the officers can expand the search or seize the vessel. Statutes authorizing searches at sea generally do not limit how frequently an individual vessel can be searched. Warrantless document and safety inspections may be conducted even if the inspectors also suspect criminal activity.
Because there is a reasonable expectation of privacy for nonpublic areas of the vessel with limited common access, warrantless searches that extend beyond document and safety inspections require some particularized suspicion of wrongdoing. Limited searches of domestic vessels beyond document and safety inspections require reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, while full “stem-to-stern” searches require probable cause.
Customs officials are authorized to conduct document and safety inspections of foreign or domestic vessels located (1) in the United States, (2) within customs waters, (3) within a “customs-enforcement area,” or (4) in any “other authorized place.” Customs officers are not generally authorized to search vessels on the high seas. However, they are authorized to board and examine a “hovering vessel” wherever it is found, including on the high seas. Customs officers may also pursue a fleeing vessel beyond customs waters if the vessel was originally hailed within customs waters.
Because Coast Guard officers are considered customs officers, they may act pursuant to the statutory authority granted to customs officials. Unlike other customs officials, however, the Coast Guard may conduct inspections of vessels under the jurisdiction of the United States on the high seas.
Foreign vessels within U.S. territorial waters may also be boarded for document and safety inspections without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Coast Guard officers may board and search a foreign vessel on the high seas if they have reasonable suspicion that the vessel is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and has violated U.S. law, or if the flag state of the vessel consents. Government officials may board a “vessel without nationality” to determine its true identity. Additionally, true “vessels without nationality” may be treated as if they are U.S. vessels, and they are subject to U.S. jurisdiction and laws.