border patrol stops
June 27, 2005 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I just got back from Texas with a day trip to Mexico. When coming back from Mexico but a few miles on 100 North IIRC inside the US border, we ran across a border patrol where I, the driver, was asked if the border patrol people could take a look inside the van. I said yes because I knew weren't hiding anything, but I'm guessing it was because we had a few Hispanics with us and a whole lot of luggage to hide people/stuff. Now, I've always heard one doesn't have to consent to allowing a search of the car, so I'm curious if I have said no to letting the border patrol look inside my car? What would have happened if I said no?
posted by jmd82 to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always been told the rules are different within a certain distance (100 miles?) of the borders, both with Canada and Mexico.

I know a bunch of Irish people were deported as a result of a check inside a train near the Canadian border. They were pretty surprised, and wouldn't have taken that train had they known. I'm sure cars are the same.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:35 AM on June 27, 2005

jamesonandwater has it. The Border essentially exists within 100 miles of the actual physical Border between countries. Within that space, Border Patrol officers are allow to stop and question individuals without needing a reason. You are legally obligated to answer questions about citizenship, and can be detained if you refuse. They are not able to search your car, however, without the driver either giving consent or having probable cause (seeing something that looks like drugs, having a drug sniffing dog indicate presence of an illegal substance, etc.)

You might be right about why they pulled you over, but some of these stations have become fairly permanent where once they were just random and roaming.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:50 AM on June 27, 2005

This is the law I'm referring to . . . expedited removal.

Were they looking in your van for people or goods?
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:51 AM on June 27, 2005

To be more exact, it was an actual checkpoint on the highway with a k-9, roofing, etc. Everyone was being stopped, but I could tell not everyone's car was being searched. Also, it wasn't a thorough search, just an opening of the doors to look around. I dunno what they were looking for, but being so close to the border, I'm guessing people (they can search for goods at customs).
posted by jmd82 at 7:53 AM on June 27, 2005

The "border exception" applies once you get close to the Mexican border.
Basically, the 4th Amendment does not apply within 25(?) miles of the border.

So, to answer your question, you'd have likely been detained and your vehicle searched anyway.
posted by madajb at 7:57 AM on June 27, 2005

Basically, the 4th Amendment does not apply within 25(?) miles of the border.

That is incorrect. This FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin is a good overview of search-and-seizure law pertaining to interactions at and near borders.

“The extended border doctrine provides that non-routine border searches that occur near the border are deemed constitutionally permissible if reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” something which is determined by a three-part test,

“whether 1) there is a reasonable certainty [or a high degree of probability] that a border crossing has occurred;

2) there is a reasonable certainty that no change in the condition of the luggage [i.e., the item or person to be examined] has occurred since the border crossing;

and 3) there is a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity has occurred.”50 This three-part test becomes necessary in an extended border search context because it “entails greater intrusion on an entrant’s legitimate expectation of privacy than does a search conducted at the border or its functional equivalent[.]”51

posted by mlis at 8:28 AM on June 27, 2005

When crossing from Mexico into Texas in Laredo I'm asked if I'm a citizen and waved through. This happens at the bridge and up the road at the inspection station. Sometimes I don't even have to stop.

My Hispanic friends ALWAYS get stopped and asked to search their car, despite being at least 4th gen US citizens. Their driver licenses are asked for and scrutinized. That never happens to this white guy.
posted by birdherder at 8:50 AM on June 27, 2005

I've crossed the border several times. I'm white and I'm never crossing with any Mexicans, but we're still sometimes searched, even our bags & such have been opened. It's not only illegal's or drugs that they look for.
posted by LadyBonita at 11:07 AM on June 27, 2005

We're not talking about checkpoints at the actual border, though. These checkpoints are fairly well within the U.S. I live in San Diego, and there's a permanent checkpoint on every major highway leaving town, usually out near the county line (for I-15 and I-5, this is basically 50 miles north of the border). The I-5 checkpoint is located in Camp Pendleton Marine Base, and has a mile of fencing surrounding the freeway leading up to it on the south side to keep people from crossing the freeway, or leaving cars to pass the checkpoint through the emptiness of the base. Everyone stops at the checkpoint for at least a moment, and most people are just waved through without a word. I've been pulled over the side of the road for a secondary inspection just once, and I'm as honky as can be. I think it's just a standard thing along the Mexican border.
posted by LionIndex at 11:48 AM on June 27, 2005

It's a standard thing along the Mexican border. US law allows Mexican citizens to come into the border areas (25--75 miles depending on where) more easily than they can (legally) go to the rest of the US. So there are secondary border controls to deal with the border zone.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:28 PM on June 27, 2005

MLIS - No, you're right, I completely misread jmd's question.
That's what I get for answering questions before I'm fully awake.
Sorry, jmd, ignore me, carry on about your normal business.
posted by madajb at 1:57 PM on June 27, 2005

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