Post details: Illegal Homeland Security Drug Checkpoints

2008-07-04

Permalink 00:00:00, Categories: Privacy, Right to Travel, Homeland Security?, Checkpoints, 6100 words   English (EU)

Illegal Homeland Security Drug Checkpoints

The suspicionless warrantless Homeland Security checkpoint seizure & drug dog search depicted in the photo above took place on the afternoon of May 16, 2008. The only crime committed by the operator of the vehicle receiving the extra special attention from armed federal agents & their specially trained canine pal was the crime of driving along a public highway located over 40 miles North of the border.

[More:]

The checkpoint in question was (and still is) located near mile marker 146 on SR86 in Southern Arizona. It's been in operation since early January 2008. The public highway the checkpoint is located on runs East - West over forty miles North of the international border with Mexico and never intersects the border at any point:

While I've been seized at this checkpoint on numerous occasions over the past six months while driving this route, this was my first experience with a drug dog being directed against the traveling public during the day. As in previous stops, I fully documented the encounter & make it available below:


The video footage contradicts critics who claim these internal suspicionless immigration checkpoints are no big deal since they're limited to brief citizenship queries (as if interfering with the traveling & privacy rights of Americans inside the country under threat of force absent reasonable suspicion is no big deal).

To the contrary, these suspicionless checkpoints are being used as a pretext to search for drugs using specially trained K-9 units capable of sniffing out marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, and meth-related drugs. Customs & Border Protection tries to hide this fact by claiming the dogs are being used primarily to detect people while failing or refusing to acknowledge the dual capability & usage of the dogs.

As such, it's clear that Homeland Security's current enforcement model revolves around suspecting everyone inside the country of being either an illegal immigrant or a drug smuggler - everyone except the department's own employee's that is.

Lest critics claim the use of drug dogs at internal immigration checkpoints are a rare occurrence, I point you to a recent article detailing the use of Homeland Security drug dogs at a Yuma, AZ checkpoint. It appears that the Yuma County Sheriff & County Prosecutor's Office have found a way around the prohibition against drug checkpoints by using Border Patrol immigration checkpoints instead. As such, these state & federal agencies have teamed up to create a joint task force (no pun intended) known as Operation Citation.

The operation, which involves Border Patrol agents diverted from border operations, specifically targets recreational marijuana users at internal suspicionless 'immigration' checkpoints where the county sheriff has cross-certified Homeland Security agents to enforce state/county law as long as the bulk of the citations and fines end up in county coffers:

This joint operation serves as a stark example of the inevitable mission creep associated with the use of suspicionless DHS immigration checkpoints against the traveling public inside the country.

I note that in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically struck down as unconstitutional, checkpoints used to detect the presence of illegal narcotics:

"Petitioner city operates vehicle checkpoints on its roads in an effort to interdict unlawful drugs. Respondents, who were each stopped at such a checkpoint, filed suit, claiming that the roadblocks violated the Fourth Amendment. The District Court denied respondents a preliminary injunction, but the Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the checkpoints contravened the Fourth Amendment.

Held: Because the checkpoint program’s primary purpose is indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control, the checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment"

- U.S Supreme Court, City of Indianapolis v. Edmund

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Unfortunately, this Supreme Court prohibition hasn't even slowed down the illegal enforcement activities of DHS agents & their cohorts in crime at the Yuma County Sheriff's Department as the article below clearly shows.

As my experiences continue to show, expect such wholesale disregard for individual rights and the rule of law in a county near you sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Happy Independence Day.

Border Patrol checkpoints near Yuma nab hordes of pot users headed back from the beach
By Ray Stern - Phoenix New Times
published: March 13, 2008

The small sedan slowed as it approached the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on a deserted section of Interstate 8 east of Yuma. The car contained three middle-age women on their way back to the Valley after a planning retreat in San Diego. The past three days had been idyllic and productive as the women lounged on the beach, making art and chatting over ideas for the future of their ceramics business.

The self-described hippies had taken marijuana to the beach and were returning with some of it in the car. One of them, Mary (like others quoted in this article, she agreed to talk about her experience only if New Times used a pseudonym) was unapologetic.

"I would never quit. I like my life, you know?" the 56-year-old says later of her pot use. "None of us drink. We're leftover people from the '60s and '70s."

Mary, the oldest of the group, was driving. She didn't sweat the traffic stop as her car rolled up. She'd been through this same movable checkpoint along the stretch of I-8 East before and had never had a problem.

This time, something was different. She noticed that the checkpoint seemed better staffed than usual. One green-shirted agent manned a small, white booth while others milled about near tents, office-trailers, and patrol cars. Another agent walked a dog, which held its snout high as it sniffed along a line of slowing vehicles.

As Mary's sedan neared, the dog tensed as if it had seen a rabbit, straining at its leash and jerking its human handler forward. Mary was told to park her car under a large canopy to the right of the road. An agent walked up to the driver's-side window and asked her if she would consent to a search of the vehicle.

"This was pretty intimidating," she recalls. "They had guns and were wearing fatigues. We're three little ladies from Phoenix who are calm, peaceful people."

The women were asked to step out and stand a few feet away as the dog trounced through the car.

A moment later, one of the agents confronted the group.

"Well, you obviously don't have any illegal immigrants in the car," he said. "My dog signaled for marijuana. Does anyone want to say anything?"

The women said nothing, but the agents soon found about a half-ounce of pot and a small wooden pipe. The women were made to sit in a holding cell in one of the Border Patrol trailers.

"I was, like, 'Come on. I'm a grandma,'" says Mary. But the agents showed no reaction to her plea. Mary took the blame for the pot and paraphernalia because she says it was "critical" that her business partners have no arrest record.

An agent handed Mary, who had never before been busted for anything harsher than a traffic violation, a citation listing two charges: possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

For additional photos from the border check points near Yuma, check out the slide show: Pot Shots

Stories like Mary's used to be rare, compared to what's going on at the Border Patrol's two Yuma Sector checkpoints nowadays.

In the past, small-time drug users were busted occasionally. The Border Patrol has used dogs at its checkpoints for at least two decades, mainly for the purpose of detecting human cargo. But until a few years ago, it employed far fewer than it does now, which meant dogs were not routinely placed at the checkpoints near Yuma. Also, the checkpoints were often closed because fewer agents were available to staff them.

Since late 2005, though, the number of Yuma Sector agents has risen 55 percent — to about 850 agents, up from 550, as of January. Augmenting those agents are hundreds of National Guard soldiers who are part of a 6,000-troop border-protection plan called Operation Jump Start, ordered by President Bush in mid-2006.

The number of K9 dogs also has increased, to more than 30, up from four in 1999. The animals are trained to sniff out hidden human beings, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and meth-related drugs such as Ecstasy.

The beefed-up resources and the addition of more than 50 miles of fencing along the border south of the Yuma area have slowed illegal immigration in the sector to a trickle compared with what it was just two years ago.

These days, the checkpoints on eastbound Interstate 8 and northbound Arizona 95 near Yuma (a passageway to the I-10 and I-40 corridors linking Arizona and California) are open 24 hours a day. And with the addition of seven times more K9 dogs, they have become the biggest weed traps in the country.

Strictly in terms of quantity, other checkpoints catch more dope. The Border Patrol is allowed to set up roadblocks as far as 100 miles from any national border, and it operates 33 permanent and numerous other "tactical" or movable checkpoints on the Mexican and Canadian frontiers. In the Southwest, checkpoints are typically found on California's north-south I-5, numerous small highways near Mexico, such as Arizona's Highway 86, and along I-10 between Tucson and El Paso, Texas. The Border Patrol sometimes puts up movable checkpoints on I-10 between Phoenix and Los Angeles, but it's rare to encounter one.

Drug-sniffing dogs at some of the checkpoints, especially the ones south of Tucson and through Texas, find literally tons of marijuana being smuggled from Mexico.

But the Border Patrol and other law enforcement officials in the Southwest report that no checkpoints in the United States bust as many small-time marijuana users as the ones near Yuma, on I-8 and Arizona 95.

The past three years have seen an explosion of such cases. In just 11 months last year, the two checkpoints nabbed more than 1,200 people for possession of marijuana — and usually for smaller amounts than what Mary carried.

The majority of the busts occurred at the checkpoint along eastbound I-8, the freeway that carries vacationers between Arizona and San Diego.

Consequences are toughest for people caught with hard drugs. Possession of such drugs as meth, cocaine, or heroin will result in a long drive to the county jail in Yuma. But even for personal amounts of marijuana, citations are issued that can result in fines and big hassles.

The I-8 checkpoint garnered national attention in January after rapper Lil Wayne was arrested there. He was charged with carrying marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy, and a handgun. He pleaded not guilty last month.

Few would argue that big dope smugglers or those carrying an arsenal of hard drugs shouldn't feel the pinch of the law. If it weren't for the trained dogs, smugglers could run thousands of pounds of drugs through the Yuma Sector checkpoints.

But the vast majority of people getting busted at checkpoints in Arizona near Yuma aren't smugglers or illegal immigrants. They aren't even big-shot partiers like Lil Wayne. They're just average people who happen to be carrying a smidgen of marijuana in their vehicles.

They might never be caught if it weren't for an exception granted the Border Patrol to set up roadblocks with trained dogs. All the Border Patrol checkpoints, not just the ones near Yuma, take advantage of special powers that experts say contradict normal constitutional search-and-seizure rules.

So many marijuana users have been caught that, last year, Yuma officials had to streamline the legal process. In a program unique to the Yuma Sector, Border Patrol agents were given the authority to write citations in low-quantity marijuana cases as though they were deputies working for the Yuma County Sheriff's Office.

The program even was anointed with a catchy federal handle: Operation Citation.

The deputizing of the federal agents means it's easier than ever to get busted. And the program reflects how busting minor pot users is what the agents working at the checkpoints — whose primary mission is supposed to be stopping illegal human trafficking — spend much of their time doing.

A review of 1,052 of the citations issued last year showed that more than 40 percent were issued to Arizonans, presumably on their way back from California. Of those, Phoenix and Tucson residents made up the majority. The rest were split among Californians, 44 percent, and people from other states. A handful of those cited listed hometowns in other countries, including Mexico, Spain, England, and Austria.

Most were cited for possessing just a few grams of marijuana, or a pipe containing marijuana residue. (A gram is about the weight of a large paper clip).

If there's more than one person in the vehicle and no one admits ownership of the marijuana, Border Patrol policy dictates that the citation goes to the driver.

It's not just the number of dogs that makes the Yuma checkpoints so different. Border Patrol checkpoints just a few miles away near El Centro, California, including a new one on westbound I-8, also use dogs. But marijuana laws are far more lax in California, resulting in far fewer citations and much-less-serious legal problems.

In the unlikely event that you do get busted on your way to San Diego for a small amount of marijuana at the California-side I-8 checkpoint west of the state line, you will be hit with nothing more than a $100 fine. In California, possession of an ounce or less of pot is not even prosecuted as a misdemeanor, it's a base-level "infraction."

But you'd better not risk bringing even a tiny amount of pot back from the beach — because nothing demonstrates how differently marijuana possession is viewed officially by California compared to Arizona than the checkpoint busts this side of Yuma.

Arizona has the stiffest marijuana laws in the country. Possession of any amount or of any kind of drug paraphernalia (even a small pipe) is technically a felony.

Technically, because charges against small-time users are knocked down to misdemeanors in Yuma County and in other Arizona counties, including Maricopa. Leniency is one reason — marijuana isn't considered as dangerous as other drugs. But it's also true that, if prosecuted as felonies, the sheer number of marijuana cases would overwhelm local court systems.

Still, a misdemeanor conviction for pot means that you must pay hundreds of dollars in fines in Arizona. And, it's not uncommon for defendants to fork over thousands of dollars in attorney fees trying to avoid a conviction — which, for some, means loss of a job or disqualification for federal financial aid.

The Border Patrol is unapologetic about its right turn toward busting hordes of minor drug offenders at the Yuma-area checkpoints. In fact, Jeremy Schappell, spokesman for the Yuma Sector, brags that the agency practices zero tolerance when it comes to any amount of illegal substances or paraphernalia.

"If we get just a pipe, they are getting written up," Schappell says. "If it's a seed, they are getting written up."

Using drug-sniffing dogs at checkpoints to catch small-time marijuana users probably seems like a smart idea to Americans who view drug use as morally unacceptable.

However, keeping in mind the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, judges have traditionally taken a dim view of such "suspicion-less" stops and searches of vehicles.

After first taking office in 1993, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a former DEA agent, proposed staking out main roads in and out of Maricopa County with checkpoints. Then-County Attorney Rick Romley put the kibosh on Arpaio's idea, saying it was unconstitutional.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down another drug checkpoint proposal in Indianapolis vs. Edmond. In the landmark case, Indianapolis police set up roadblocks staffed by dogs and their handlers, ultimately busting about 50 people with drugs.

The Supreme Court had, in the past, found two major exceptions to its general disapproval of police checkpoints. In 1990's Michigan Dept. of State Police vs. Sitz, the High Court allowed DUI checkpoints. And in 1976's United States vs. Martinez-Fuerte, it gave the Border Patrol the right to set up checkpoints that seek to uncover illegal immigrants — with the secondary purpose of finding drugs.

"We have never approved a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing," the Supreme Court majority wrote in the Indiana case. "The [Indianapolis] checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment."

The notion of a checkpoint where police can pull over every single vehicle and search it chills many Americans. Justice Clarence Thomas, no beacon of liberal thought, made that clear in his dissenting opinion in the 2000 case. Though Thomas felt compelled to side with the Indianapolis police because of court precedents, he challenged the basis of the precedents strongly.

"I am not convinced that Sitz and Martinez-Fuerte were correctly decided," Thomas wrote. "Indeed, I rather doubt that the framers of the Fourth Amendment would have considered 'reasonable' a program of indiscriminate stops of individuals not suspected of wrongdoing."

The new agreement with Yuma County blurs the distinction between drug and immigration checkpoints.

The Yuma County Sheriff's Office, like all other law enforcement agencies in the country, cannot legally operate a K9 checkpoint. But in Yuma County, Border Patrol agents are deputized to write local-jurisdiction citations — an end run around long-standing constitutional protections against stopping motorists without probable cause.

The Border Patrol takes pains to explain that it's running immigration checkpoints, with the secondary mission of detecting illegal drugs, just as the Supreme Court's legal interpretation allows.

Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project in Santa Cruz, California, says the procedures at the Yuma checkpoints are a good example of how increased police powers for one purpose often end up being used for another. The supposed need for an immigration checkpoint is "thin justification" for busting every drug user passing through, he insists.

"Even if somebody has no sympathy for a marijuana user," Boyd says, "you should still be concerned that the U.S. government is saying the border is an area where the U.S. Constitution is suspended."

On a recent winter day at the I-8 East checkpoint, two skinny young Hispanic women are led away in handcuffs. A Department of Public Safety Officer helps them into his patrol car for a trip to the Yuma County Jail.

A checkpoint dog found meth in the women's car.

The dogs working the checkpoint that day were Belgian Malinoises, though the agency also uses German shepherds, Labradors, and other breeds. They're kept fit and trim — so lean, in fact, that motorists often urge the agents to feed them more. It takes about six weeks to train the dogs to sniff out drugs and people, then another six weeks to train their handlers, says Wes Burch, the Yuma Sector's K9 coordinator.

To the animals, the work is a fun game of hide and seek. Sometimes, they can smell drugs from dozens of feet away as they walk along the queue of slowly rolling vehicles. A dog's body posture changes if it catches a whiff of drugs, becoming more rigid and focused. Its breathing quickens. After the vehicle is emptied of visible occupants, the dog is nearly infallible at finding drugs or people hidden inside. If drugs don't turn up, it doesn't mean they weren't there earlier. A Border Patrol K9's sense of smell is so acute, agents say, that it can tell if someone smoked marijuana in or near a vehicle days before the checkpoint stop.

When they find drugs, the dogs are rewarded with a small burlap toy for a few moments. The animals seem to love their job, eagerly sniffing within inches of vehicles, putting their paws on truck bumpers, and scanning the air with their snouts.

These days, there are enough trained canines to allow for rotating shifts. Still, the job is fairly intense for the dogs. They can focus on their work for only 15 or 20 minutes at a time before needing a break; their sense of smell is diminished when they become overheated. Despite the boost in dog teams that has led to increased drug busts, it's possible to pass through the checkpoints without ever seeing a dog.

At least three dogs are working on the day New Times visits the I-8 East checkpoint, but the animals rest more than half of the time. Even when the dogs are ready, sometimes the line of vehicles becomes too long and has to be "flushed," as the agents put it. All but the most suspicious autos are waved through quickly. Otherwise, commerce and the free flow of traffic on the highway would be disrupted, agents say.

One K9 handler walks far down the shoulder of I-8, using his dog to sniff out small bags of drugs and paraphernalia often discarded by approaching drivers or passengers. He finds nothing on this day, but it's common to find such contraband near the checkpoint, says Schappell, the federal agency's Yuma spokesman.

Schappell wonders why a Border Patrol sign announcing the checkpoint about a mile up the road doesn't warn all drug users to dump their stashes. But he fails to realize that most people have no idea their vehicles are about to be sniffed by a dog, with major consequences if the animal smells anything alarming.

The I-8 East checkpoint does have a sign declaring, "Working Dogs Ahead." But it's next to the checkpoint booth and the dogs, making it useless as a warning.

A lean, gray Belgian Malinois suddenly appears happier, its attention focused on a gold Chrysler 300. It tugs firmly at its short, leather leash, and its handler motions to another agent, who asks the 20-something driver to pull over beneath a shade tent. The young man sits on a folding chair for a few minutes, looking nervous. As the Malinois bounces through his car, he leans forward with his head in his hands.

But the dog finds nothing, and driver is released.

As far as the agents are concerned, a K9 is never wrong: The man must have had drugs in or around his car recently that left enough lingering molecules to alert the dog.

To Yuma County, the Border Patrol's dogs look more like geese — as in the ones laying golden eggs.

They've brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past few years. Until a change was made last fall, fines ranged between $750 and $1,400 for the small-time marijuana violators picked up at the checkpoints. Now, fines usually run $400 — but that still works out to be a lot of money considering there have been more than a thousand cases a year.

And considering that federal agents and their dogs do most of the work.

Yuma County officials insist it's not about the money. They say it's a black-and-white issue. Marijuana is illegal.

"It's the law, and we like enforcing the law," says Roger Nelson, chief deputy Yuma County attorney for criminal matters. "We're not going to apologize for it, and we don't think there's anything wrong with having drug-sniffing dogs at an immigration checkpoint."

Though the Border Patrol is a federal agency that's using its resources to do the work of Yuma County authorities, Schappell says it "can't turn a blind eye" to the casual users picked up because of the extra dogs.

The issue of whether the federal Border Patrol officers near Yuma should be busting small-time drug offenders is a subject made raw over the recent death of a comrade.

In mid-January, Agent Luis Aguilar was run over in the sand dunes west of Yuma by a Mexican national driving a Hummer loaded with drugs.

"My opinion is that the grandma coming through with the ounce of marijuana — how she got the marijuana is from the Hummer that ran over Luis Aguilar," Schappell says.

The Yuma Sector's spokesman finds it ironic that media focused far more on the January 22 arrest of entertainer Lil Wayne, which happened two days before a memorial service was held for Aguilar. Media calls poured in from all over the world about the rapper, but reporters weren't very interested in the dead agent.

Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., was riding in an RV with 11 friends when a dog targeted his vehicle at the I-8 East checkpoint. A subsequent search turned up about a quarter-pound of pot, an ounce of cocaine, 41 grams of Ecstasy, and a handgun.

Interest in what happened to Lil Wayne has been running so high that the Yuma Superior Court plans to air live coverage of his upcoming trial (no date for which has been announced) on its Web site.

Another big catch apparently flew under the media's radar: Officials say that in 2006, a dog at the I-8 East checkpoint hit on the tour bus of the Crosby, Stills and Nash band, resulting in an arrest for hashish. It wasn't one of the famous musicians who got nabbed, but a member of their entourage.

Interestingly (because it would make sense to rationalize the huge number of minor drug arrests as a means of keeping impaired motorists off the highway), none of the marijuana users cited at the Yuma Sector checkpoints was busted for driving under the influence.

The Border Patrol's heightened checkpoint activity played a big role in boosting the number of misdemeanor cases handled by the Yuma County Attorney's office from 980 in 2000 to more than 1,500 by 2005.

Then it really got busy. Nelson says his office prosecuted more than 2,500 misdemeanors last year. And that's despite the fact that county attorneys routinely dismiss as many as 20 percent of the marijuana cases as too legally tenuous to bother with.

Not surprisingly, Nelson says it was his office that recommended the partnership between the Border Patrol and the Yuma County Sheriff's Office, which led to the current arrangement of having the federal agents write Arizona tickets.

Before Operation Citation, the Border Patrol agents would make a seizure, then forward the motorist's name to the county attorney's office. Nelson says prosecutors would be forced to send a registered letter to each defendant at the cost of $5 or $6 each. And sheriff's deputies routinely had to schlep out to the Border Patrol stations to pick up the contraband for evidence, then write a slew of citations.

Now, county officers are no longer faced with the dilemma of either doing all that work or ignoring the fine-producing cases.

As for the people busted at the checkpoints who talked to New Times, they are angry that an immigration-enforcement agency caught them in its lair. They believe it's only natural that they had no idea they would be detained, because they weren't carrying a secret cargo of illegal aliens.

"I don't mean to be a conspiracy theory person, but you have to wonder if we are heading for the same things the Germans went through," says Mary, the pot-smoking grandmother. "It's only a matter of time before we see [checkpoints] on I-17 and every other major highway."

"It definitely didn't feel American," a member of a small Texas rock band says about the I-8 East checkpoint, after receiving a citation in June. "Our civil liberties are kind of slowly corroding away."

Normally, a police officer is allowed to pull over a motorist only if a traffic violation (anything from erratic driving to a busted tail light) is observed. Then, the officer has probable cause to, say, shine a flashlight into the car to look for illicit drugs.

Though there was no such probable cause in the Yuma County pot cases, the Border Patrol is exempted from that requirement by the Supreme Court, as noted earlier in this story.

The busted motorists whom New Times interviewed were particularly chagrined that a dog wound up leading officers to the pot they had stashed in their luggage.

"We were stupefied by the whole thing," says a 39-year-old Colorado mother of two teenagers charged with possessing about four grams of marijuana. She'd been on a road trip with a friend from Texas to San Diego, and they'd stopped in Tucson to visit a mutual friend, who gave them the pot. A highway accident temporarily closed I-8 East, diverting traffic north from Yuma onto Highway 95 — right into the northbound checkpoint where a Border Patrol dog was waiting for them.

"We thought we were going to be thrown in prison or jail or something," she says. "It was one of the scariest things I've ever been through."

She later paid $1,600 for an attorney (to avoid having to fly back to Yuma for a court date) and a $400 fine.

In cases like that of the Colorado woman, leniency figured into the equation, according to Yuma County prosecutors.

Nelson, the chief deputy county attorney for criminal matters, says his office prosecutes minor marijuana cases as misdemeanors to provide "the lenience that we believe these crimes deserve."

Truth is, Yuma County's courts would be swamped if each small-time pot case were handled as the felony that state law declares it, says Lil Wayne's Yuma attorney, James Tilson. The county, like most others in the state these days, is under a major budget crunch.

So, there's a practical reason for dealing with people caught with small amounts of marijuana quickly and efficiently. Doing it otherwise, simply doesn't pencil out.

More arrestees would take felony cases to trial. Even with plea agreements, such cases take a lot more time, money, and effort to prosecute.

On both the financial and human level, "increasing the amount of work you have doesn't make sense if it's not a serious crime," Tilson says.

Unfortunately for those caught on the Arizona side of the state line, a misdemeanor still packs a punch. Besides a fine, it also requires defendants or their lawyers to appear in court, which can get expensive.

Mary, the Phoenix grandma, negotiated a deal in which her misdemeanor charge was dropped in lieu of a $1,200 drug-treatment class. She paid a lawyer $3,500 to help make the deal.

The Texas musician paid a lawyer $3,500 just to see a $738 fine dropped to $400.

Under the current system, an innocent person could easily end up with a ticket just because a pot user left a surprise in the car.

That's what happened to "Joe," a 48-year-old Peoria man who drove his wife's car through the checkpoint on his way back from a job in Yuma. Joe's not a pot smoker and says he fully supports the Border Patrol's mission.

"My daughter, who's in her 20s, forgot to take her goodies out" of the car, Joe says. After a dog gave an alert, agents found two used pot pipes in the trunk.

Rather than place the blame on his daughter, he paid $1,600 in fines, and was embarrassed recently when the arrest showed up in a background check while he was trying to rent a house. He was allowed to move in, but lamented of his new rap sheet: "It just sucks. Period."

The worst part, Joe says, is that he could be fired if his boss ever found out about the conviction.

Ryan Childers, a criminal defense attorney who worked as a prosecutor for Imperial County, California, from 2004 to 2006, was surprised to hear how many checkpoint-related drug cases Yuma County handles.

"What a waste of resources!" the El Centro lawyer says.

In California, Childers explains, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana rates only a $100 fine and is considered a minor infraction rather than a misdemeanor. And forget the rhetoric heard in Arizona that violators would be prosecuted even "if it's a seed." This state's more liberal neighbor requires a "smokable amount" to prosecute the infraction, Childers says.

The law against marijuana paraphernalia in California is so lax that Border Patrol agents in the state who find a pipe or a bong in a checkpoint search can't do anything other than confiscate it, Childers says.

There's no checkpoint along the westbound lanes of I-8 in Arizona, but three months ago, the Border Patrol opened a checkpoint on westbound I-8 just east of El Centro. The agency's El Centro Sector also operates permanent checkpoints on California highways 86 and 111.

Minuscule amounts of marijuana are mostly seen as a waste of time for law enforcement, says Lieutenant George Moreno of the Imperial County Sheriff's Office.

A sheriff's deputy or a California Highway Patrol officer is obliged to drive out to the El Centro-area checkpoint if a case is to be made. Moreno says California law disallows detentions of more than 30 minutes for infractions. So if the amount of pot is just a few grams and no deputy is near the checkpoint, the sheriff's office doesn't send anybody out.

"The Border Patrol knows that we don't have the staffing levels, so they [usually] just let the person go and they destroy the evidence," he says.

And because California's medical-marijuana law is liberal, if such marijuana users show the correct paperwork to the Border Patrol after getting stopped, their pot is seized and they're sent on their way, Moreno says.

In the Yuma Sector, low-level busts of people with marijuana are staving off boredom for Border Patrol agents.

Spokesman Schappell talks almost wistfully of the days when the sector was hopping with illegal immigrants. Now, agents don't spend much time chasing down border crossers and hauling in big loads of drugs, he admits.

On a sunny February day, Schappell cruises a sandy road on the northern side of the imposing security fence that runs from San Luis to just past the distant Tinajas Altas Mountains on the horizon. Not a footprint can be seen for miles in the soft earth.

"Anybody who says a fence doesn't work, I say, 'Come to Yuma,'" Schappell says.

The number of Border Patrol agents nationally stands at more than 15,000 and is expected to grow to 18,000 by the end of the year. The push toward greater enforcement against illegal immigrants is gaining momentum, and agents from Texas to California insist that checkpoints are a crucial part of the system.

Checkpoints running north from Tucson and ports of entry in New Mexico and Texas caught the bulk of the nearly 2 million pounds of marijuana, seven tons of cocaine, and sizable loads of other drugs seized by the Border Patrol last year.

In the Yuma Sector, though, the agency's mission has changed with time. Now, it's the small-time drug offender feeling the most heat, and the illegal immigrants and smugglers — who are far more aware of the checkpoints than the average American citizen — are going elsewhere.

The Border Patrol attributes this to the addition of the 300 new Yuma Sector agents in three years and to the new fence along the non-mountainous parts of the sector's 125-mile southern border.

The drop in apprehensions has been the Border Patrol's biggest success story. In 2006, Yuma Sector agents caught 118,000 people trying to gain entry into the United States from Mexico. But last year, only 39,000 people were apprehended in the sector.

Rock-throwing by Mexicans south of the border has become more common — agents believe it's a sign of frustration with the new situation.

Still, most Yuma-area Border Patrol agents are now watching over a relatively quiet border.

Most of the action takes place at the checkpoints, where agents busy themselves busting the likes of pot-smoking grandmas and musicians.

Many of the busted marijuana users interviewed by New Times wondered whether Border Patrol agents had too much time on their hands, considering that agents expend so much effort to catch people carrying mostly minuscule amounts of pot. Others wondered whether Operation Citation was just a clever way to pour money into the Yuma County coffers.

"It's like a toll booth," says a New Mexico man busted for marijuana possession last year at the I-8 checkpoint with his two sons, in their 20s.

Whatever the frustrations of motorists who like to imbibe in a little pot, drug-sniffing dogs at the Yuma-area checkpoints are here to stay.

Lloyd Easterling, an assistant chief at the Border Patrol's Washington headquarters, says the agency is proud of the Yuma Sector's ongoing effort to nail drug violators.

"Whether it's small-time offenders or much-larger-time smugglers, those drugs are still coming in and out of the neighborhoods," Easterling says. "At some point, the likelihood is that they came across the border."

In Arizona, a misdemeanor conviction for pot means hundreds of dollars in fines. It's not uncommon for defendants to fork over thousands of dollars in attorney fees trying to keep from getting a drug record.

Nothing shows how differently small-time pot possession is viewed in California compared to Arizona than the checkpoint busts this side of the state line. Such Border Patrol busts are rarely pursued by California authorities. When they are, only a small fine is levied.

Of 1,052 people cited for small amounts of marijuana last year at the checkpoints near Yuma, 40 percent were Arizonans, presumably on their way back from California. Of these, most were from the Valley.

Comments:

Comment from: Alice Lillie [Visitor] · http://www.alicelillieandher.blogspot.com
Thank you for this. I do a lot of car trips, and the more I know about these the better.

I don't carry drugs or guns or anything, and I am a citizen, don't fit any profiles either, even wear a seatbelt but I have *ATTITUDE* that goes on forever.

So, try to drive around the darn things.

Individuals have the natural *right* to have drugs and guns and not wear a seatbelt. Anything that does not infringe on the rights of others must be allowed if we are to pretend we are a free country.

Which we are most decidedly *not!!*

See my blog above.
Permalink 2008-07-05 @ 11:04
Comment from: An american [Visitor]
Hmm, I wonder if it's illegal to possess and use one of those whistles that only dogs can hear?

Maybe a little pepper on the tires and wheels?

Of course, I hate the idea of taking it out on the dogs. It would be better if we could stuff Chertoff's nose in the pepper. Bad Chertoff!!
Permalink 2008-07-05 @ 17:19
Comment from: Memyself [Visitor]
Now if we all stood up to these pigs like you do... they would have to go away. Good job! I think they're afraid of you now because they just see it's you and they don't bother interrogating you anymore.
Permalink 2008-07-07 @ 23:30
Comment from: Chris [Visitor]
Excellent work! You as legal and appropriate questions of the officers and they clearly don't want to deal with an educated and respectful citizen who choses not to be a lamb and instead choses to exercise his rights! Well done Sir
Permalink 2008-07-09 @ 03:51
Comment from: Mike C [Visitor]
'Yuma County officials insist it's not about the money. They say it's a black-and-white issue. Marijuana is illegal.

"It's the law, and we like enforcing the law," says Roger Nelson, chief deputy Yuma County attorney for criminal matters. "We're not going to apologize for it, and we don't think there's anything wrong with having drug-sniffing dogs at an immigration checkpoint."'

...

'Nelson, the chief deputy county attorney for criminal matters, says his office prosecutes minor marijuana cases as misdemeanors to provide "the lenience that we believe these crimes deserve."

Truth is, Yuma County's courts would be swamped if each small-time pot case were handled as the felony that state law declares it, says Lil Wayne's Yuma attorney, James Tilson.'

Yep, black and white issue, 'we only enforce the law, we don't make them...' until prosecuting fully under the law might cost a bit more money.

This is ludicrous.
Permalink 2008-07-09 @ 14:50
Comment from: IBMMuseum [Visitor]
Although I am against casual drug usage I support knowing and standing up for your rights under the U.S. Constitution. "Mary" made her first mistake in granting consent to be searched. Once that door had been opened there wasn't much more they could do.
Permalink 2008-07-09 @ 14:53
Comment from: Craig [Visitor]
I was stopped in 1991 at a Texas checkpoint. I was pulled aside and a drug dog was soon jumping inside of my car. I asked the agent to 'please remove the dog from the car, sir', and without saying anything, he started pulling my camping gear and my backpack out of the car and throwing it down HARD on the concrete. I didn't say another word, and when it was over, I was free to leave, (and pick up my stuff on the concrete).

I am surprised they haven't pulled you aside and given you more thorough trouble. If they detained me for an hour after answering their questions, couldn't they detain you for hours for whatever reason they come up with?
Permalink 2008-07-12 @ 21:55
Comment from: Craig [Visitor]
Just to clarify something that may be misunderstood: these same immigrant stops have been in Texas, on similar roads which don't cross the border, since the late 1980s. They were performed by the INS then, and they are still here now, but I'm not sure which agency performs them now.

Permalink 2008-07-12 @ 21:58
Comment from: IBMMuseum [Visitor]
@ Craig

You are right that there is no more "INS" (Immigration and Naturalization Service). These checkpoints are operated by the Border Patrol under the Department of Homeland Security. Read through the information on the site - It is organized and very informative.
Permalink 2008-07-18 @ 09:49
Comment from: Man of Conscience [Visitor]
I fail to see "your" point of view. And I fail to see 'your' objective in having this site. In the videos you ask the men and women in uniform who you are? Are you a sort of a celebrity, or famous person that they should know on site?

To me, you are being unfair to the men and women who are in the videos. OK so she asked you a simple question: 'Of what country are you a citizen of', why not simply flash your US passport and be on your way. You asked her if you were detained, by simply stopping you were detained, and if you know anything about the law you should have known that. And when she asked you to move to secondary inspection, you did not, and kept asking the same questions. By this, you are clearly out there to embarrass these men and women who are simply doing their job. What is your objections about that?

OK tell us what would you do, if you were the head of Dept. of Homeland Security? How would you perform the duties charged to these men and women?

You say that this checkpoint is 40 miles way from the border, well how close to the border must it be to be acceptable to you? 2 inches?

Lets do the math. If a 'bad' person crossed the border, how soon will that 'bad' person be 40 miles away from the border? At a law abiding speed of 55 mph, it would take 43.6 minutes, and I am sure that in these rural parts of the country 55mph is too low a speed limit, and no one actually drives that slow, law abiding or not.

If I were you I would simply place a USA flag on my radio antenna, have my US passport with me, and when I get to a checkpoint I will crack my window and greet the men and women and show them my US passport. Once I am waved to continue my travel I will THANK these men and women and be thankful that someone is paying attention to my back yard.
Permalink 2008-07-18 @ 12:58
Comment from: A reader [Visitor]
"Man of Conscience", I think you miss several key points that the checkpointusa blogger has made.

First, the road he keeps getting stopped on does NOT intersect the border. It's 40 miles away and runs parallel to the border.

Second, there is no reason to believe that he or anyone else traveling that road has recently crossed the border, whether legally or illegally.

Third, the Border Patrol has a valid function. But trying to accomplish that function that many miles from the border is rather ludicrous.

Fourth, like many things with the Dept. of Homeland Security, the BP seems to be trying to expand their function with the drug dogs. To me, those are acceptable at a Port of Entry. But at a checkpoint 40 miles inland, and on a road that doesn't even interset the border? They're fishing and looking for excuses to justify their existance. After all, they haven't done an exactly bang up job of keeping illegal aliens out of the country, now have they?

And let's remove the fact that that particular road doesn't intersect the border. What if it did? Does that mean that the border patrol should automatically suspect every person that lives or works within that 40 miles of the border as being an illegal? Does that mean that they should also suspect everybody that lives in Detroit, Buffalo, and Seattle?

Perhaps the blogger is a bit obnoxious. But he's within his rights. And you have to remember, that they started things with him a couple years back and falsely arrested him at least once.

Permalink 2008-07-18 @ 14:56
Comment from: Craig [Visitor]
They don't have the right to stop us, or anyone on a public road. But if they stop us and detain us, and interrogate us, which is what they are doing when they ask any question at all, then they are required to read us our Miranda rights, the first of which goes, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law..."

What would happen if I answer the question incorrectly? Don't you think they would use that against me?

Permalink 2008-07-18 @ 16:37
Comment from: IBMMuseum [Visitor]
@ Craig

"Miranda Rights" are for when you are being arrested (and the reason for the arrest is stated to you). But you are exactly right that your responses could be used for the purposes of further questions. Remaining silent is always an option, but in itself it is also a response.

Better to answer a question with one of your own...

Even with a statement of citizenship the agent could choose not believe it, and detain someone further. If it is an illegal alien giving a false claim of U.S. citizenship to a Border Patrol agent it is a lifetime ban from the United States. A true U.S. citizen claiming *not* to be a citizen?

They would probably want to check it out further...
Permalink 2008-07-20 @ 01:22
Comment from: Craig [Visitor]
"A true U.S. citizen claiming *not* to be a citizen?"

There are other ways they can use an incorrect answer against someone: say the respondent answers the question "State your citizen ship":

1) No hablo ingles?

or

2) I don't know.

3) or I am not a citizen of the United States; I owe allegiance to no country.

In 1988 I was given a hard time when I was coming back from Canada. I answered, "Texas".

Permalink 2008-07-20 @ 14:32
Comment from: IBMMuseum [Visitor]
@ Craig

#1 will probably then have the Border Patrol officer latch into talking in Spanish to you. Believe it or not, there are U.S. citizens that do not know English (nor are required to). The Border Patrol does also come in contact with indigenous peoples that do not know Spanish or English.

#2 and #3 would depend on the agent...

And usually the question is phrased as "Are you a U.S. citizen?"...
Permalink 2008-07-21 @ 22:24
Comment from: Al [Visitor]
Re: the video from Reddit. You were extremely fortunate not to have been renditioned.

I have to assume that you are a white, WASPy-looking individual accompanied by an equally white, WASPy-looking female.

I travel on I8 often and at all hours as I live in San Diego and have adult children living in Calexico, Yuma and Phoenix. On EB I8 there are no less then 4 checkpoints between Phx and SD. WB there's generally 2 but there's chokepoints where they can easily set up 2 more. I am a 3rd generation American citizen, fully assimilated but my appearance is 100% Mexican. My now deceased wife was American of Irish-German descent. 2 of my kids are blond and blue-eyed, the 3rd inherited my complexion but fortunately my wife's good looks. Of 7 grandchildren, 6 are blue-eyed and lighter complexion.

I mention all that because of the vast difference in the way that I get treated when I go through those checkpoints with one or more of the blue-eyed children/grandchildren and when I have the misfortune to have to travel through one by myself.

If accompanied by a "blue-eye" I get waved through, no questions asked. NEVER!!

By myself, it's another story. At the minimum, I'll be asked about my citizenship. That's if the sun's still up (and they can clearly see into my car). On one occasion in daylight I was sent to secondary. I was asked to pop my trunk which I did because under the Bush Regime I could end up in Guantanamo under the flimsiest of excuses. While one agent was moving my luggage around looking for drugs or an illegal midget, a dog was walked around my car just in case the searching agent missed anything. The guy in charge of secondary extracted my trip itinerary (where were you born, where are coming from, where are you going to, are you carrying anything illegal). Before sending me on my way, he tapped the side of the car just to make sure the dog didn't miss anything.

Total time lost: maybe a minute and a half. A minute and a half of extreme anxiety.

This was not my 1st run-in with security crazed individuals. I was flying alot for business after 9/11. I was the proto-type for the "random check." Mexican...Arab... they all look the same you know. I didn't miss a single random check on several flights for the 1st 3 or 4 months after flying was allowed again. Even after I quickly wised-up and shaved off my Arab-looking beard.

Anyway, the above described trip to secondary took place in daylight hours. At night, by myself, about every 3rd time I have to go through a checkpoint there's a side trip to secondary. At night, pardon my pithy language, I'm scared shitless. These guys are very nervous, they can't see into the cars as well, and at the California checkpoints all kinds of weird stuff has happened at both because they are both much closer to the border. When I say weird I mean people have tried run them over, have shot at some of them, have gone the wrong way on the interstate with vanloads of illegals. It's a high-stress job they're trying to do but please don't take it out on American citizens who happen to be of Mexican or hispanic descent.

Secondary at night is terrifying. I've been asked to step out of the car, to present my ID, to lay out my trip itinerary, let the dog sniff every thing in and out of the car, one night INCLUDING the engine compartment. On a different night by Jacumba, an agent came up behind the guy doing the talking with one of those M-16 carbine things that you see American servicemen carrying on the news in Iraq. It was attached to a special strap of some kind hanging from his chest. He just stood there as if he was waiting for me to do something stupid. Sort of like a little mental water-boarding.

Had I gotten as mouthy as you did with any of those agents, day or night, I would still be rotting away "accidentally forgotten" in a detention center with none of this phone-call-within-48-hours BS that's supposed to be afforded to American citizens. Because of my appearance they could easily get away with saying "he had no ID" and don't think this hasn't happened in the past--it has. If you mess with Feds at these checkpoints you are seriously jeopardizing your freedom even if you look like Mr. Sweden.

I am really glad that you have taken this issue on as it really has to be made public. These guys are definitely not the happy, smiling champions of ethical law enforcement that you see on their recruiting material.

But you will be much more effective if you don't end up in one of the Homeland Security Ministry's detention centers as the forgotten crazy illegal Swedish guy that tried to blow past a checkpoint.

Also remember that it's not just the 4th Amendment that's been eviscerated, it's only the most recent one. Just ask anyone that's ever said anything negative or held up a negative sign at a Bush function about the 1st Amendment. They always get arrested. The 5th and 6th Amendments have also been MIA under the Bush Regime.

Again, be very cautious around these checkpoints and don't make the mistake of thinking they don't know who you are. You can safely assume they write down the plate #s of anyone taking their pictures or taping them. Some parts of the Homeland Security Ministry are full-blown, bat-shit crazy--they see threats to security everywhere. Over 1 million names on the official no-fly list for example. Just remember--the Russian KGB started that way too.

Again, please!!! Be very careful around these guys especially if there's been any recent incidents near the checkpoint you're going to. These guys get very nervous, especially at night.
Permalink 2008-07-26 @ 21:29
Comment from: Craig [Visitor]
Not that it should take anything away from your story, but in case anyone overlooks the obvious, always turn your interior lights on when stopped at night; it makes them feel much more comfortable.
Permalink 2008-07-28 @ 22:10
Comment from: Sue Do Nym [Visitor]
Worth noting, for the record, at least some of the stuff he usually (almost always) does right:

1. Has the camera running. Is there a hidden camera/digital voice recorder? We don't need to know, but the BP agents do need to worry about that.

2. Not roll down the window. This prevents "misunderstandings" about a smell of alcohol and/or marijuana permeating the car; that's something that seems to happen with remarkable frequency when a LEO wishes to hassle somebody.

3. Avoid discussions. He doesn't accept an obligation to answer questions.

4. Keep asking the same questions: "Are you detaining me?" and "Am I free to leave?"

5. Not moving to the "secondary". That's obvious, but a lot of folks seem to miss that one.

6. Repeating as necessary.
Permalink 2008-08-07 @ 13:08
Comment from: an actual american in the military [Visitor]
ok. maybe i am going out on a limb by not being a fuckin idiot like 99% of your viewers/poster on here. hows about you just say that you ARE an american citizen and go on your way instead of playing the fuckin system and citing court cases. i have lived in texas and know for a fact that the checkpoints at the borders cannot get EVERYTHING coming through. these people are trying to protect you. and i apologize for the border patrol "holding you up" from your important little life by asking you one simple question... but if you cannot just answer the question posed, maybe you should save the time of every REAL American (that has been overseas fighting for your right to mouth off on a blog like a coward) and you should go ahead and swallow a fuckin shotgun. im stationed in california and have to deal with morons like you in the area and picketing outside our base. the world isnt a peaceful place. honestly, i dont expect anyone reading to understand that or anything else outside their scope of reality loosely based on what mommy and daddy told you, what you learned in your ivy league school, and what you read in USA today... i kinda doubt that this post will ever see the light of day. but all the same... if you have a problem with our government trying to take steps in direction of keeping drugs/illegal weapons/illegal aliens/terrorists etc out of our country... well you can go play a game i call "go fuck yourself" and get out of this country and form your own shit country on some shit island where you can use your tears as lubricant while you ass-fuck yourself into extinction... cause i dont want to die in iraq/afghanistan for a limp wristed anti-american fuck like you.
Permalink 2008-08-12 @ 22:40
Comment from: an actual american in the military [Visitor]
so there! anyone with me?
Permalink 2008-08-12 @ 22:44
Comment from: Sue Do Nym [Visitor]
I hope not.

There's nothing at all wrong with the government taking steps to keep bad things out of the country; there's a lot wrong with agents of the government violating the Constitution -- you know; that thing you took an oath to defend? -- even just a little, when doing so.

Beyond that, these suspicionless checkpoints, even if they were Constitutionally permissible (and they're not) are a huge waste of time and resources. The best way for the government to stop wasting time and resources on them isn't to hassle those folks who stand on their rights, but to spend time and resources doing sensible things.

Short form: fuck off, asshole. Strong language to follow.

P.S. Thank you for your service. I wish your service had taught you better, but thanks for it, anyway.
Permalink 2008-08-13 @ 10:17
Comment from: Jodi [Visitor]
I was busted for 7 grams of pot at the 95 n checkpoint at 8pm with my kids in the car. I was going to Lake Havasu for a Cinco De Mayo weekend. I am so glad you have brought this out to the open. It is WRONG to be nailed for Marijuana by a dog, at a border patrol check point, there to "catch Illegals".
Permalink 2008-08-15 @ 00:32
Comment from: Steve Arizona Grad [Visitor]
Just like you I thought it was BS for the BP to set up checkpoints on SR 86. I did some research about it and found that the BP can run checkpoints within 100 miles from the border. SR 86 is a major alien and drug trafficking route taking by smugglers. It’s one of the largest seizure areas in the BP Tucson sector. At this “roadblock” the BP are doing an immigration check, but they can arrest persons who are violating federal law. The dogs they use are trained to sniff out people, but like many agencies they also have the dog crossed trained to sniff for drugs. BP has to run the checkpoints according to Nine Circuit rulings. They have the right to set up these “Roadblocks” in order stop the illegal smuggling that comes up from the border. Another Fact for Mr. Bressi: Just like Kitt Peak, SR 86 that runs on TO nation land is under the jurisdiction of the Native Americans. They can, within the agreement with US, restrict access to their land. So… your whole argument does not hold water because you were stopped in another country.
Permalink 2008-08-19 @ 03:57
Comment from: IBMMuseum [Visitor]
I'll back Sue up in the answer to "an actual american in the military". Apparently his reading comprehension skills are low if he thinks that 99% of viewers/respondants don't agree with CheckpointUSA's stand. The bad language is those thankfully rare servicemembers that put up bluster and bravado when not actually needed (most mature out of it).

We can match my 22 years of service, with four deployments to the Persian Gulf region, against his service (BTW, Thank You for that) at any time. What are these "Temporary" checkpoints protecting us from? If someone just answers a question that they are a U.S. citizen makes it so they are beyond suspicion?

I pray to God that "Actual American" isn't in Military Intelligence, for his failure to think outside the box...
Permalink 2008-08-20 @ 13:36
Comment from: BT [Visitor]
What are you people complaining about? Have you all forgot what happened on September 11th? And so what if you get a citation for possession of illegal drugs. They're ILLEGAL!!! The actions of the US Border Patrol are within legal rights, as stated by the Supreme Court. Get over it. You're not going to stop them. If you are a US citizen, then understand one thing... they are doing this to protect YOU! So, just answer their questions and thank them for their service. It takes more energy to fight a losing battle than to just comply.
Permalink 2008-08-31 @ 09:26
Comment from: a "REAL" Patriot [Visitor]
It stuns me that some people here, including an American serviceman, are willing to allow these roadblocks and inspections for so-called "protection". "they're doing it for your protection. Why not just answerthe questions if you have nothing to hide". Pathetic and un-American I say. Whre does it stop? Oh just do what the nice poeple in uniform ask. That's what Germans under Hitler did. It's what all poeple under totalitarian governments do. I thought we had a constitution to uphold here. To the American serviceman who responded so poorly: Do you realize what you where the uniform for and what you are defending? Apparently you don't and perhaps you should have studied a bit more. If we continue to allow the government to violate the constitution of this country then there is nothing left to defend. Nothing great anyway. How can people not see this. And it doesn't take a genius to realize the end-game of all this and the slkippery slope it presents. Where does it end? Would you be okay with them coming into your home? Hey it's for your protection, right? So why not.

Sad and pathetic how some people claim to be patriotic and "REAL Americans" and yet would give up their rights for some sort of "protection". Like little children that don't know any better and run screaming from the boogeyman. Baby. Thankfully more servicemen aren't like this poster or we'd be never accomplish anything in this world militarily.
Permalink 2008-09-02 @ 16:52
Comment from: Real Patriot [Visitor]
"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."

I guess the question is what is "unreasonable" and what defines "probable cause". I'm not sure how they can justify probably cause using a drug dog that has searched your vehicle without permission...but I'm not a lawyer.
Permalink 2008-09-10 @ 20:21
Comment from: Whoever [Visitor]
I find it amazing that so many of you will consider yourselves informed though you've done no research on the legality of said inspections.

Regarding the SR86 corridor; it is a major thoroughfare for human and narcotic trafficking. One of the respondents above was correct in that it is legal to conduct said inspections within 100 miles of the border, regardless of the direction the road points.
Regarding probable cause; only reasonable suspicion is necessary to move you to secondary. The dog alert provides them the probable cause to enter your vehicle or your consent will do the same. No probable cause is necessary to conduct the checkpoint as all vehicles regardless of make, model, and or race or nationality of driver are stopped. Oh, and the use of a K-9 outside of your vehicle does not constitute a violation and does not require suspicion.
The checkpoint is essentially a brief investigatory stop. This idiot Bressi merely fuels the fire by considering himself a crusader when he has no legal leg to stand on.
I for one appreciate the presence of law enforcement, especially those who attempt to fight the influx of drugs and illegal human trafficking into this country. Which is what they are doing. I don't advocate martial law or agents of the government usurping federal law but I haven't seen either in these videos.
I too serve in the military, having 18 years of service and several sandbox tours under my belt, and while I may not choose to use the colorful language my brother in the Corps does he has a point. Those agents required to deal with some of the horrible attitudes I've read here should be applauded for remaining professional while you do not.

Sue Do Nym, apparently you are not a lawyer. Check your facts.
Permalink 2008-10-01 @ 00:50
Comment from: IBMMuseum [Visitor]
"Whoever" is talking about professionalism, when I've had Border Patrol agents stop me either with or without my family that aren't identifying themselves or the agency they work for. Three vehicle stops in a ten month period! At what point would 30 minute stops become burdensome to you?

I'm talking about the unprofessionalism of Border Patrol agents not being familiar with the legitimate visa documents presented to them (in other words, their jobs), even while complying with every one of their questions. Those same agents on that lengthy stop were shining a flashlight into the eyes of my wife and stepchildren (and another U.S. citizen passenger)in a darkened vehicle. You can read about some of the events that have happened to me, (similiar to yourself, a serviceman of 22 years) on these Border Patrol vehicle stops here, on CheckpointUSA's YouTube channel video comments, and elsewhere on the Internet.

Have you seen the recent Pew Hispanic Center numbers that 1 out of every 10 Hispanics report being asked for immigration/citizenship status on vehicle stops in the last year? Does this need to start affecting other ethnic groups of being stopped for "papers" before you define it as a problem? Or that just because someone looks Hispanic creates reasonable suspicion enough to make a vehicle stop?
Permalink 2008-10-02 @ 11:50
Comment from: Alsee [Visitor]
Some posters here are good patriotic Americans standing up for this country.

Other posters here are good loyal obedient citizens... for East Germany.
Permalink 2008-10-24 @ 22:05
Comment from: Angie [Visitor]
All the bickering about how "they are druggies, they deserve it" will change when it becomes your guns for which they search and prosecute. Dogs can smell the nitrates in gun powder as easily as they can smell marijuana. Remember folks: keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times and enjoy the fun...
Permalink 2008-11-15 @ 10:56
Comment from: Moonhead [Visitor]
I recently had a case out of Operation Citation in Yuma. We did not get to litigate the issue but during the discovery process it became more and more suspicious that the drug detection canines were not properly trained and the claim that the dogs could tell the difference between the smell of hidden illegal immigrants from other humans is insane. The dogs will alert on any vehicle that recently had a person in it, therefore the dogs will allert on any vehicle it is put up to. The agents will search the car if they feel you look suspicious or if they do not like the way you look. They can do searches based solely on hunches--an act outlawed time and time again by the U.S. Supreme Court. The searches will often turn up personal use amounts of marijuana and the individual will be charged then offered a plea where they pay a $400 fine.

Then I presume what happens most of the time is since the person is not from Yuma, it is in their practical best interest to resolve their case and plead guilty rather than deal with the case from afar.
Permalink 2009-02-24 @ 16:05
Comment from: San Diego [Visitor]
I got stopped at 10pm on the 85 checkpoint in Arizona driving my sister and niece to my grandparents in AZ from San Diego.

I had a 1 gram of grass, and 3 small bags of candy (THC infused) which I have a prescription. I had not consumed any since that morning (nearly 12 hours ago) in the trunk of my car.

When I arrived at the checkpoint...The dog alerted us to the secondary and we we're asked to the secondary, I gave consent because I am a law abiding citizen in relation to a border patrol stop (no hard drugs, grass for sale, or illegal aliens). I never had a problem with the any cops (my family members are cops) or border patrol...and admire there sacrifice (or I did).

After being detained for an hour in a small trailer...I was read more rights...and I received a citation (class 6 felony, which lowest possible for possession for grass) while my family (who had nothing to do with it) had to wait in the 102 (albeit at night) for an hour. What was even more annoying is they we’re speaking Spanish for 50% of the time while I was being questioned in the trailer.

The fact that federal officers we're deputized by AZ to police this is minor infraction appalling...and the whole situation have made me weary of our law enforcement or the border patrol' primary and "secondary mission". Fortunately, I am not an AZ resident...however, I urge those who are you to write your congressman or local officials to make this illegal.

I'm also very sad I voted for McCain...it's obvious what this country would become a police state had his Arizonian politics spread to the rest of the country.

PS – I support the military fighting wars against our enemies abroad (and still do) to reply to a previous poster…I just didn’t realize the government know thought I was the enemy while driving to Phoenix.
Permalink 2009-08-29 @ 18:09
Comment from: San Diego [Visitor]
Correction, the above stop occured on the Arizona's Highway 86 between I-8 and I-10.
Permalink 2009-08-29 @ 18:11
Comment from: Chris [Visitor]
I was looking on this site as my wife and I (and our 2 dogs) were stopped, moved to secondary, asked to leave our car, surrounded by 4 'officers' with their hands on their pistols, and finally told to take our hands out of my pockets. As we watched the K-9 dog jump in and out of our car we were told that we were asked to park because the dog 'smelled illegal aliens'. Having no 'illegal aliens', drugs, or anything illegal in my car the entire incident just seemed bizzar.

But later I began to wonder about the officers claim. The dog smelled 'illegal aliens'. Really?, with two people and two dogs in a 2 door hatch-back Hyundai I find it hard to believe that the officers really thought we were also concealing 'illegal aliens' or that the dog could 'smell' them.

I don't do drugs and don't break the law, and I don't have much sympathy for those who do. But as I stood in the dark, surrounded by 4 men with their hands on their guns who demanded that I take my hands out of my pockets, I began to get a sense that the liberties I generally assume exist may be slipping away.
Permalink 2010-04-25 @ 19:09
Comment from: Jason P [Visitor]
I was waved through the permanent checkpoint in San Clemente, California and the Agent Immediately got in his car, pulled me over for "failing to stop at a stop sign." He said that I tried to "Slip by without being noticed.." I had an open container and he called the CHP who cited me for open container. I did not get a traffic citation from the BP Agent but was just curious if that could be considered an "invalid stop?" Is there anyway to contest this?
Permalink 2010-09-27 @ 13:00

Comments are closed for this post.

Roadblock Revelations

Welcome to Checkpoint USA's blog. Here you'll find general information and discussions regarding growing threats to our right to privacy & travel.

While I refer to court cases along with state and federal law frequently in this blog, nothing written here should be construed as legal advice. I am not an attorney. Rather, I'm someone concerned about the growing disregard for individual rights present at all levels of government.

My conclusions are my own based upon personal experience and research. The law is made purposely complex however and varies significantly from place to place and circumstance to circumstance.

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