Customary waiting period

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The U.S. Customs Service took a big step toward observing passengers' 4th Amendment rights yesterday when it announced that a federal magistrate will have to give the OK for drug-smuggling suspects to be held for more than four hours.

But why does it take four hours to tell if somebody is suspected of smuggling drugs? If a passenger comes swaggering up to customs wearing an I Love Pot tee-shirt and a sporting a white-powder moustache, that person is probably a good search candidate.

If, however, the suspect's behavior is less obviously felonious but still considered borderline, ask some questions: "Did you enjoy the food substitute? Could you tell what Mel Gibson was saying during the bleeped-out parts? Are you carrying a kilo of cocaine in your luggage?" This should take about two minutes.

Still not satisfied? Then get the papers signed, do your search, shine a light anywhere the sun doesn't. But don't wait four hours. Justice doesn't have all day, folks.

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