Politely refusing to talk to DHS checkpoints

Hugh sez, "Apparently DHS checkpoints nowhere near the border are a new thing. This video cuts together recordings of such encounters and citizens' polite refusal to answer questions."

Top quote: "Am I being detained?"

Checkpoints (some would say illegal checkpoints) have been popping up quite frequently in the USA. As you see in this video, you DO NOT have to comply with their question's or demands. Don't forget, you have rights.

Top DHS checkpoint refusals (Thanks, Hugh!)


  1. Wouldn’t a savvy DHS officer answer the question with, “Yes, you’re being detained; no, you are not free to go” and refuse to let you move on until they’ve searched your vehicle and possibly subjected you to a full cavity search?

    1. No, because a savvy DHS officer would know that they need probably cause to detain and search. They keep going in circles here because they are savvy enough to know they can’t do anything, and they’re just hoping they can be annoying enough to get the driver to give up and just answer their questions out of frustration.

        1. All they are asking for is your rights to travel anonymously. Such a simple thing. Who needs it? Would you ever have any reason to travel anywhere you might not travel regularly? Because if it becomes NORMAL to just give up your information whenever, then it becomes NORMAL to track everyone everywhere at all times. Then, software that tracks where you go on a daily basis allows for predictions–one might say probable cause–on where you are going, and if you deviate from your normal path you are now suspicious.

          Surprise birthday party? Meeting an old friend at a hotel as they come through your town? Picking up something off of Craigslist? Your friend on the other side of town needs a ride from a bar? You have to go downtown to pick up some paperwork that got sent to the other office?

          All of these things suddenly become suspicious when the software–which is right enough that the talking heads make laws that say it is allowable in court as reasons to perform a stop–and now you can’t do anything out of fear of being hassled. or being flagged in a system that might not let you fly anywhere ever again.

          You either live free, or you die a prisoner in a cage you willingly allowed to be built around you.

    2. They are skirting the law. Don’t look at these folks as officers of the law doing their duty. Look at them instead as people dressed in uniforms asking citizens to do something. They do not have the authority to detain anyone without probably cause, nor do they have the authority to search your vehicle. But if they ask and you let them then it’s no different than if your neighbor asked the same question.

      1. I’m assuming the difference is that these DHS people are not police officers and don’t have the kinds of powers granted to police? Because I wouldn’t try this with actual cops. Especially if I weren’t white.

        1. No, even the police need to have probable cause for their actions.  DUI stop?  They need to smell or observe alcohol and even then need to ask you out of the vehicle to submit to tests.

          If they stop you for no reason like this DHS stop they cannot detain you without probable cause that they can articulate at the time (“I see a Mexican passport on the dashboard and have reason to believe you are a foreign national.”)  Without crossing a border you’re still protected under every right that requires them to have a warrant or permission to search your vehicle or your person.

          1. Did you read the wiki article you linked at all, let alone the opinion? They can stop your car and briefly question you but they can’t detain you, they can’t search your vehicle or your person unless that brief questioning results in reasonable suspicion / probable cause that you’ve committed a crime (in this case DUI).

          2. I didn’t say they couldn’t stop you, I said they can’t detain you without probable cause.  Not getting a response to “Are you an American citizen?” is not probable cause for arrest.  They can stop all they want but can’t always expect answers. Your statement of “anything they see or hear can then be used to establish probable cause” only reinforces the reason that you should not say anything at all other than polite minimal answers.

          3. “genuinely pulling people over at random”

            How is this determined? I would like to see the methods and entropy records of this randomness… Because from my COMPLETELY ANECDOTAL evidence, they seem to pull over cars with dirt on them, if they have a enclosed cargo area, or if they have several people in the car.

            From my limited observations, I would say that this ‘RANDOM’ is highly suspect and needs to be verified that it is random.

          4. Here’s a California DUI checkpoint refusal:

            However, I think this (side) thread is basically premised on a misunderstanding of the difference between detainment and being pulled over. No, they don’t really need a reason to pull you over, but they do need a reason to keep you there.

          5.  Out of interest, as a brit, what would be likely to happen to me if I came over on holiday?  Would I have any rights at all?

          6. IANAL, but I do know that non-citizens of the U.S. (including undocumented visitors and residents) are entitled to Constitutional protections, but not privileges (in the sense of rights like voting or buying firearms) while in the U.S. So some rights, but not all.

            All that goes out the window in an international border zone for everyone, but 30 miles from Mexico ain’t that.

          7. The Bill of Rights are limits on the government, – the 4th Amendment is a ban on the government performing unlawful searches and seizures.

            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

            Notice that it says “people” not citizens.

            The 5th Amendment forbids the government from compelling testimony from a “person” against him or herself

            No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

            Notice that it does not limit its scope to citizens.

            The 6th Amendment speaks of “the accused” – shall have the right to a lawyer – not merely citizens.

            I mean – if you’re going through airport customs, cooperate fully if you want in to the country, but if you’re stopped 30 miles away from the airport …

          8. Sadly, I think the best answer to that question is to encourage you to find a new holiday destination. There are some nice places to visit here, but you might not have the opportunity.

          9. You are wrong my friend. The police can do whatever the hell they want, regardless of what “the law” is. Did that ever stop a cop? If they need an excuse to harass or arrest you then they’ll make something up.

          10. The funny thing about “the law” is that it eventually involves courts.  The police can indeed do whatever they want, it can then result in civil and criminal cases against them which the city, state, or country then pays for when “the law” says the police were incorrect.

          11. I’m sorry, but If we simply accept this, we’re part of the problem.  The Constitution is a document.  It can’t run out and wrap itself around people who are violating it.  It needs us to protect it by forcing the Government to remain within its boundaries.

          12. I hate to say it, but you are totall correct, Stefanie.  I am an highly educated, law abiding white male, and it has happened to me more than once.  Sure, when a police officer makes up an excuse to ticket you, you can go to court to dispute it.  In court, however, it will be your word against theirs and guess who the judge will believe.

        2. Well, you’re lucky to be white then. It’s completely legal, and highly encouraged, to not comply with requests – only direct orders. They cannot search your car without probable cause. Here’s a nice little pamphlet from the ACLU outlining your legal rights re: Stop and Search.

          Here’s a lovely class video of a law professor and police officer talking about why you should never talk to the police or comply with requests, and only direct orders.

    3. Oh, man, at the 2:30 mark, she is potentially in SO much legal trouble, and so is the next guy at 3:50. When I was being trained for a similar job, they made it unambiguously clear to me that the question “Am I free to go?” is a legal landmine, that any answer other than an immediate and unambiguous “yes” is a detention, period. If you say anything other than “yes,” and you then fail to answer, or if you answer “no” to the question “am I being detained?”, then a reasonable citizen can presume that he has been placed under arrest, opening the LEO up to umpteen kinds of legal mischief, from false arrest if he doesn’t let you go soon enough to personal liability for any injuries that happen to you during the time when you were legally under arrest and thus his responsibility. Even for a dumb-ass semi-clerical job like Border Patrol, if you can’t get right the distinction between a voluntary conversation, a detention, and an arrest, you urgently need retraining, and if you screw it up a second time after retraining, you are officially too dumb for the job.

      Then the guy at 4:30 continues questioning him after he’s invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. Technically legal, but scummy.

      On the other hand, at 6:15, the driver is the one who screws it up: once the officer gives you an unambiguous order, you obey it, period.

      At 7:35, congratulations to the guy who is the first person to get right the distinction between a detention and an arrest.

      The guy at 9:26 went a long time without screwing it up. But, then, how is he not understanding the difference between a question and an order? On the other hand, the driver screws it up 30 seconds later when he stoops to argue with the guy – dumb, dumb, dumb, even before he Godwins the guy at 10:50. Never argue law with a cop. Ever. It does neither of you any good. There is no way he’s going to accept your opinion over his as to what the law permits or requires. No, not even if you ARE a lawyer.

      From 11:40 on, the driver is just plain wrong. Ag inspection checkpoints for any vehicle reasonably suspected of being able to transport fruit or vegetables have been upheld as a matter of public health necessity; and, as I said, on the road is no place to argue Constitutional law, especially on an issue that the cops know full well the courts have already settled. If you go through an ag checkpoint in a truck of any kind, it’s going to get searched or you’re going to get turned around. Hate it all you like, it’s the law.

      1) Any law enforcement officer who has any doubt as to whether or not a crime has occurred may detain you for a short period of time (court rulings vary by state, generally up to an hour, in some places up to three) in order to determine if a crime has occurred and whether or not you are a suspect. You are in legal limbo at that point, not free to go nor yet under arrest. The officer does not yet have the legal permission to move you away from what he or she considers to be the crime scene (the rule of thumb I was taught was out of line of sight of where the detention began, but that was just intended to give a distance estimate, not a specific guideline).

      2) Legal detention ends when time runs out, when the officer says you are free to go, when you are placed under arrest, or the second the officer stops actively investigating you and/or the crime scene.

      3) Whether you are detained or not, you are required to obey all lawful orders from any police officer; failure to obey a lawful order is, itself, a crime for which you can be arrested and prosecuted even in the absence of any other crime. The Supreme Court has ruled that, in general, ordering you to hand over your driver’s license or other ID is not an illegal order — you may think it’s a 4th and 5th Amendment violation, but that got litigated, and the Court has ruled. If you want to challenge that, the place to do so is not while standing in front of a LEO.

      4) Once any LEO says the magic words “you are under arrest” (which did not come up in this video), you are officially a ward of, property of, the state until discharged by a judge, and they can order you to do pretty much anything they want other than self-incriminate or commit a crime.

      I Am Not A Lawyer, just a retired former security officer, so don’t take any of the above as specific legal advice. I bring all of this up, from memory, from classes I had to retake every year to keep a Licensed Professional Security Officer license, just because most Americans (both inside law enforcement and outside) think that they’re experts on the Constitution and they are very nearly all wrong.

      But I fully understand and agree with the impulse behind this video. When I was a kid during the Cold War, one of the things they used to tell us all the time, as proof of how evil the Soviet Union was, was that citizens weren’t free to travel between cities without having to show their papers. That made an impression on me that has lasted to this very day … where I can’t turn around, practically, without some cop, clerk, or whatever asking to see my papers. So if this is who we’re going to be from now on, I guess we owe the Soviet Union an apology for having complained when they did it.

      1. Brad, thanks for posting.  Very interesting dissection of what transpired.

        So you’re saying that everyone told to “go to the secondary screening lane” was failing to obey a lawful order?  And that the DHS agents don’t know enough to assert this fact?  Is “I need you to pull over there” an order, or a request/question?  Also, what prevents the DHS officer from simply asking the driver to see his/her license?  That’s a lawful order at a  traffic stop, no?

        1.  I believe the point is this – does DHS have the authority to stop you in the first place, on a public road or highway and if so, can someone show me where that may be written?

          I fully understand that police, whether local or State as well as county Sheriffs have that authority but are DHS considered cops? Last I heard they weren’t as they don’t have the training necessary.

          1. ^This.  To quote the summary:  “In summary, we hold that stops for brief questioning routinely conducted at permanent checkpoints are consistent with the Fourth Amendment and need not be authorized by warrant.”

            Stopping you is legally permitted and the 4th Amendment cannot protect you from this. However:  “We have held that checkpoint searches are constitutional only if justified by consent or probable cause to search.”

            They can stop you but they can’t come in without consent or probable cause.

          2. From what mccrum said, that applies to permanent checkpoints (which many in the video seemed to be). Would it then not apply to the temporary check points that some of them looked to take place in? Some of those looked like road cones and trucks in the road setups, not a permanent border crossing or checkpoint location.

          3. Benjamin Palmer, that is a really good question.  Especially the one that seemed to involve the agent under some kind of cobbled-together umbrella.  There may be additional leeway given for those temporary stops, similar to DUI checkpoints and the like.

        2. Whether or not an order is still an order when phrased as a polite question is unclear, but you’re safest to treat it as such. If it’s a request for information, like, “Would you please tell me where you were born?” or “Would you please tell me where you are going?” you are probably safest continuing to assert your Fifth Amendment privilege. If it’s a request that you consent to a search, as in, “I’d like to search the car” or “May I search the car?”, it is safest to repeat the phrase “I do not consent to this search” as often as necessary and say nothing else. If they order you to comply with a search, do not resist, do not physically try to stop them (see above re: the pointlessness of arguing constitutional law with a cop), but keep repeating the phrase, “I will not physically resist, but I do not consent to this search.” It may help you suppress any evidence later if the cop finds any or plants any on you because your lawyer may be able to challenge the search; if you consent to the search, you’re screwed.

          If anything else, if it’s a politely phrased request that you take an action, though, as in, “Will you please step out of the car?” you are probably safest going ahead and doing what they asked, because a prosecutor and/or a judge isn’t going to be amused by your sophistry. Go ahead and ask, “Is that a request or an order” if you want to nitpick, but unless it’s a request for incriminating information or a request for consent to a search, you have nothing to lose by obeying.

          Note: if the order or politely-phrased request is unsafe or illegal, you just stepped on a legal landmine. I usually talk my way out of that situation by starting with, “Officer, I will comply, but…” or “Officer, I would like to comply but I cannot (safely/legally) do so, because …” You are safest if you make it clear that you are not defying their order, only trying to do so in the safest way possible. The last time this came up, it was “Drop whatever you have in your hands!” “Officer, this is a fragile and expensive piece of equipment. May I please place it gently on the ground and back away from it instead?”

          Note also: you do not have to consent to a search and you should never consent to a search. But you have to comply, with or without your consent, with a “Terry stop” order, that is to say, if the cop says he feels threatened or feels like you might have a concealed weapon, and demands that you let him pat down the outside of your clothing for any evidence of concealed weapon, you have to let him. Personally, I think Terry v Ohio belongs on a list of the ten or so worst Supreme Court decisions ever, but it is the law.

      2. Remember when we were told that our SSNs would never be used for anything other than tax filings?

      3. So if you are asked if you are a US citizen, are you obligated to answer? In the video, most of the people instead respond with “Am I free to go?”

        1. You are not. The driver was absolutely within his rights to decline to answer any questions on Fifth Amendment grounds.

          But since the driver was operating a motor vehicle, and since the law requires drivers to have their license, registration, and proof of insurance with them, and since the Supreme Court has ruled that you have to show this paperwork on request, I’m at a loss as to why the Border Patrol didn’t just ask for his license, registration, and insurance, which would have answered the question for them. That part baffles me, I admit.

          1. It seems like that would be the easiest way to get their answers, I don’t know why either unless it has something to do with DHS not having any responsibilities regarding checking insurance the way a cop does.  If DHS can’t charge you for operating a vehicle without a license, they probably can’t ask you to prove you have one.

          2.  ” the Supreme Court has ruled that you have to show this paperwork on request”

            To anybody? To just Law Enfircement officers? To the DHS?

          3. Outside of DC, it’s state and local police who are responsible for enforcing traffic laws, not the feds.  What authority does Border Patrol have to enforce state laws regarding drivers licenses?

          4. I believe that it is possible for both legal alien residents and illegal alien residents to obtain driver’s licenses. Do legally obtained alien resident driver’s licenses show their citizenship status?

      4. “When I was a kid during the Cold War, one of the things they used to tell us all the time, as proof of how evil the Soviet Union was, was that citizens weren’t free to travel between cities without having to show their papers.”

        Yeah, I remember that.  I also remember them telling us that Communist countries enforced nightly curfews by letting loose attack dogs in urban areas, but my educators never explained how the Communists rounded up the dogs in the morning.  Or maybe they didn’t round them up: as General Ripper said, “that’s the way your hard-core Commie works.”  So, I don’t know whether to believe anything the school told us.

        1. My instructor cited a California case (I don’t have it handy) where the court upheld a 3 hour detention, and an Illinois case with a 2 hour detention, but both were under special circumstances. If nothing else, you won’t often seen cops questioning someone /at the crime scene/ for three hours, and a detention doesn’t give them the authority to transport the guy. Yeah, it’s an outlier.

          My company’s standing orders were, either arrest them or let them go at the 45 minute mark. The closer you get to one hour, the more legal jeopardy the LEO is in; allow that 15 minutes’ time so you have time to make and process the arrest, so you can arrange backup while you’re doing it, so you can absolutely confidently state that you detained the suspect for less than an hour.

          Again, in practical terms, the real constraint is not the time limit. It’s the fact that it’s only a legal detention for as long as it takes you to investigate the possible crime scene and to actively look for probable cause to link the suspect to the possible crime; in practice, the second you run out of things to look at or look for and run out of questions to ask, you have to make the arrest or not decision right then, and that will almost never take anywhere near an hour. Usually, as you say, it’s a matter of minutes.

      5. The laws in the US are not that uniform.  Not all states have a statute on the books which makes “failure to obey a lawful order” a crime.  That’s a state-specific thing.  North Carolina, for example, has specific laws which make it a crime to fail to leave private property when ordered, to resist arrest, to fail to obey an order to disperse a riot or other disorderly event when ordered to, and to fail to stop when police pull over your motor vehicle.  There is no general statute which says anything about obeying police orders.  If it isn’t one of those things, you’re not committing a crime in North Carolina by not doing it.

    4. A savvy DHS officer knows he’ll get in big trouble if he answers that way without probable cause when he’s not in an international border zone.

      If they refuse to let you move on, you sit there blocking the road until they do. They’re causing the inconvenience, not you.

    5.  DHS officers do not have arrest powers.  This makes it very difficult for them to hold you if you refuse to stay. (Airports are special, don’t try it there as there’s Federal law in place you’ll get tangled in, badly.) Haven’t you noticed they always call in the locals to arrest someone found with things they don’t like?  Usually faster to get a local cop, since there are always some at airports, than it is to get FBI/DEA or what have you who may not have agents nearby.

      If they do indicate you are being detained and/or are not free to go, the entire legal situation changes massively.

      Start with “Terry stop”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_stop  and go on from there.

      (I am not a lawyer but am retired from 30 years working for the old U.S. Customs Service, now unfortunately part of DHS (one of the reasons I retired.)

      Don’t let their badges scare you.  I carried a badge and I was something between a licensed hacker and a science officer with roughly the same arrest powers as a coral reef (i.e. zero).

      1. Thank you. This is what I have been wondering. Upthread there has been some back-and-forth about having to obey the orders (or “requests”) of police officers, but it was not explained whether the DHS are considered the same as a police officer, having the same authority, or not.

    1. Do you think tyranny begins with Stalinesque gulags and killings? It doesn’t. It starts with crap like this.

      1.  Additionally, I’d challenge anyone to moulder in Guantanamo for a few years without trial or cause and not describe America’s current series of interchangeable regimes as tyrannical.

    2.  How about when the leader of the country declares the right to kill anyone who he declares a terrorist, and no, you may not see the evidence, because secrets, with no judicial review possible.

    1. ….and when they ask to search your vehicle, and when they ask you to pull to secondary, and exit the vehicle, and come to the processing center, and catalog your personal items, and place you in a holding cell, and THEN YOU ARE SOYLENT GREEN.

      All you have to do is just say yes.

    2. Actually, you don’t have to say anything. That’s the great thing about the Bill of Rights!

      “Are you a citizen of the United States?”
      *blank stare*

      “Thank you have a nice day.”

      If everybody did /that/, these goons would be defunded, dis-assembled, and not seen for another generation.

      The thing is this : they’re officers of the law. If you talk to them, you’ve waived some rights. If they think you’re lying, that’s a reason to arrest you. It’s not a crime to stare them into shame for illegally detaining you without cause and without warrant.

    3. Please do NOT say you are a citizen of the USA if you are not though… False claim of citizenship is a certain way to be deported and banned forever without any waiver possible. 
      That being said, I wonder if Legal Permanent Resident, or other residents/visitors with a legal status have to say “more” than what was said in this clip.

    4. In the case where that “yes” is true and you’re miles from the border, it also makes you a bad citizen who doesn’t understand his rights or the benefits of living in the U.S.A. Have some pride.

  2. A checkpoint like this in southern New Mexico, well away from the border is a featured part of my childhood memories of travelling from Mexico along I-25. It has been there for DECADES. This is a video of white people being outraged at being treated like Mexicans. And you can damn well bet that when you are Mexican, you do not sass border patrol, politely or no.

    1.  If you’d bothered to watch the video, you would see that a portion revolves around a pair of Latino gentlemen exercising their rights.  Beyond that, per your suggestion that the only reason people would insist on their rights is due to proto-racist privilege: stop being an asshole.

      1. Latino gentlemen? Seriously? I’m talking about the sense of privilege that comes with a US passport. If you have ever travelled with someone who nervously takes out their visa/ green card/ passport and shivers the whole way through the experience of being searched, waiting for their documentation to be questioned or outright disbelieved, then you don’t know what I am talking about. Or if you have never travelled with someone who doesn’t have papers. There was more than one Latino gentleman, and they all acted like privileged dicks.
        Rights? What are rights? Stop being an asshole, indeed.

        1. This is a video of white people being outraged at being treated like Mexicans.

          But then you said…

          Latino gentlemen? Seriously? I’m talking about the sense of privilege that comes with a US passport.

          You were the one making this about racism.  When someone called you on your bullshit you backpedaled and said it was about passports.  The word “passport” didn’t come up in your initial comment but “white people” did.

          Stop being an asshole.

    2. I remember that checkpoint  (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=33.197471,-107.252741&num=1&t=h&z=14  124 miles from Juarez Mexico)(from the early 80’s when I attended college in Las Cruces) as being just north of T or C NM around Elephant Butte.  I also remember that you could get off the freeway before Elephant Butte and return just after and bypass the checkpoint altogether.  There was another one on the road between Las Cruces and Alomogordo. 

  3. As much as I want to applaud these people for refusing to bow to unreasonable requests, I think it would be more productive to point out to the officers the wrongness of their actions rather than just repeating “Am I being detained?”. Bonus points if you can get them to agree its bullshit before they let you go.

    1. Anyone in the DHS who wants to keep their job will never agree it is bullshit on camera or to a civilian-dressed supervisor.  And since cameras are unobtrusive enough to be in any car, you’re never going to get them to say that.  

      “Am I being detained” is actually your clearest way out of the mess, letting them know you’re aware that they cannot just hold you without arrest and that you’re not willing to make any statement without counsel present.  They’re not there to recognize they’re doing wrong, they’re there to get paid poorly, get sunburns, and be told that they’re a vital part of protecting the homeland.

    2.  The reason one immediately asks, ‘Am I being detained?’ is that it immediately places the LEO upon the horns of a dilemma.  If he/she says yes, he/she must justify this later with probable cause, and the detainee can (and should) immediately exercise his or her 5th Amendment rights, refuse to speak further, and demand access to a lawyer.  If the officer says no, those stopped are free to leave.  The follow-up question, ‘Am I free to go?’ is asked simply to establish once again that everyone understands what is happening. 

      Every one of these officers is aware of this – hence the refusal to actually answer the question.  They hem and haw, avoiding their legal responsibility, hoping that the citizen will waiver his rights and allow the search/questioning to continue.  Life is not CSI.  Nothing good can come up volunteering info to LEOs – at best, they have absolutely no freedom to adjust the actions their superiors have required of them, and at worst such a conversation can be used against the citizen in a number of ways.

      Know your rights.  Insist on them.  That’s it.

      1. “Nothing good can come up volunteering info to LEOs ”  This.  They’re not your friends, they’re not there to help you.  “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law” is the Miranda phrase.  It is not “Anything you say can be used for your benefit in court to help prove your innocence, butterflies and puppies!”

        I don’t envy them, and I don’t want to be seen as attacking them, because they’ve got families to feed and house payments to make.  But I’m sure not going to toe the line or suggest that others do so just because DHS wants me to give up a few of the items mentioned in the Bill of Rights so they can keep traffic moving in the stop they themselves created.

        1. “and will be” – this has always intrigued me; every single word I say to the Police has to be used by the prosecution? Why isn’t it “and may be”, or just “can be used”?

          1. Because then the prosecution isn’t doing their job.  “Here’s something that would help our case, should we use it?” isn’t the kind of thing you want to hear when you’re hiring a lawyer for either side.

          2.  That doesn’t really answer the question that is being asked.  “Can and will be” implies that any statement whether or not it actually helps the prosecution’s case will be used in a court of law.

            I would guess so that the police can’t lie and say “If you just tell us this we really promise it won’t come up in court”.

    3. In asking questions like “where is the border?” and “do you have probable cause?” and especially “am I being detained?,” you’re getting the message across. They’re trained enough to understand what those questions mean, or at the very least to be frightened by the consequences of answering them incorrectly.

      The more people who do it, the stronger the message will be.


    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.

    Some folks want to shrink government, hell they should just repeal the so called patriot act and shrink TSA and DHS out of business.

    1.  Actually in this case it’s REASONABLE SUSPICION.  Probable cause is the standard to arrest somebody.  Reasonable suspicion is the standard to detain and question somebody.

    2.  No, it’s PROBABLY CAUSE… as in “this is the sort of issue that will PROBABLY CAUSE Facebook to light up, what with my in-laws…”.

  5. When I was a teen ( okay that was about 20 yrs ago ) I believed I wanted to emigrate to America; I felt like its attitudes towards freedom and success was something I could appreciate ( hey I was a teen allow me some naivete ) in the last 10 years I feel I have seen a constant downgrade in all the things I used to consider appealing. My last visit to the states required me to provide fingerprints ( one thumb )  before crossing immigration( I still dont know where those are ; until then I have never knowingly provided a finger print ) I see videos like this where the Govt is stopping people far beyond the checkpoint; and by example if I arrived in Brighton then one of those checkpoints would be in Croydon and I think “I never want to visit America, or have reason to journey to America” it has become a place I fear. 

    1. When I moved to Ireland for a year I was required to give fingerprints as well, so I thing the fingerprinting of foreign nationals is just an international standard now.

      1. I was fingerprinted entering the UK. I simply assume the UK shares their collection with the US and vice versa.

  6. Former border resident here, very familiar with the checkpoint song-and-dance.  It looks like this video confuses two different types of checkpoints

    First, Border Patrol checkpoints conducted by BP agents (in the green uniforms, DHS).  I’ve also seen Customs (“Field Operations Officers,” in blue uniforms, also DHS) staff these stops.  These are, unfortunately, legal within 75 (or maybe it’s 100?) miles of the border.

    Second, an agriculture checkpoint.  It’s on the AZ border, perhaps entering into CA.  Those are certainly not DHS run, they don’t even look federal.  I’m not sure about the legality / required response for those is.  I’ll focus on BP checkpoints below.

    I remember a Border Patrol lawyer, at a meeting organized by activists, saying that the only two legitimate reasons (as in, passed Supreme Court review) reasons for checkpoint stops are DUI checks and Border Patrol within 75 (or 100?) miles of the border.  And even in these cases, they are only legit if they stop every car.  Though nothing prevents them from quickly waving through cars driven by White people and asking more questions of people who look Hispanic.

    As for answering questions, at Border Patrol checkpoints everyone in the car must answer “I am a US citizen” if they are.  End of interview, anything else requires probable cause / consent.  You do not have to show ID, say where you are going, or allow them to look at anything.  If you are not a US citizen, you must have your visa / permanent resident card and do actually have to answer more questions.  (The example, from the same lawyer: tourist visa holders can’t work, so “why are you bringing a work truck?” is a legit immigration question that must be answered.) 

    Most of the time, they’re very polite and I get waived through just by smiling. Then again, I’m White so….  Yes, these checkpoints are disturbing and yes, they perpetuate very racist systems. Please, if you want to defend your rights, know them. 

    Also, if anyone knows of immigration (DHS) checkpoints beyond 100 miles from the border, it would be really good to know about.  I know people doing some good work forcing the government to defend checkpoints on an effectiveness level, and they’d want to hear about this.

    1. If you have not crossed any borders you do not have to answer any questions.  Period.  You can be brown, white, blue, purple, whatever, without probable cause they do not have the right to detain you if you decide not to provide answers about your citizenship.  This is a direct result of the 2000 Supreme Court decision that determined general crime-fighting checkpoints are not allowed.

      If you want to give up your rights when you stop, feel free, but if I’m riding shotgun with your we’re going to be a few minutes while I refuse to answer questions and stubbornly insist to hear that we are not being detained without probable cause and that their probable cause needs to be reasonable and articulatable.  If they can’t say what the probable cause is we’ll be on our way.This is probably why you’re not going to give me that ride in Arizona.  I’m cool with it.

      1.  Don’t know how I missed that article. That has GOT to be THE most depressing thing I have ever read. Nothing like knowing that my whole state (Michigan) is subject to unreasonable searches. It’s total bullshit.

      2. It’s “100 air miles from any external boundary.” I don’t think international airports don’t count as an external boundary. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_search_exception#cite_note-5

        According to that Wikipedia article’s interpretation of case law, search requires reasonable suspicion beyond the border itself but DHS doesn’t seem to be acting that way.

        Even without international airports, 100 miles still covers a huge amount of the country. Look at the map here. According to this article, 2/3rds of Americans live within 100 miles of a border. http://www.aclu.org/national-security_technology-and-liberty/are-you-living-constitution-free-zone

    2. I think that you are incorrect. You have the right to remain silent. That’s a right. You have it. If you answer the question ‘Are you a US citizen?’, then you have given up that right.

  7. Seriously.. I envy the fact that anyone can do this..

    If you try to pull off one iota of what was done in this video here in Turkey, you’d probably get a maglite sponsored cavity search..

    1. Speaking as a US resident, I envy the people who had the nerve to do this.  Because of my genetic background I probably wouldn’t be pulled over in the first place. These “officers” would look at the paleness of my skin and say, “Move along.”

      But if they did pull me over and start subjecting me to questions I realize I’d have one of two options. The first option would be to comply as politely and quietly as possible, knowing they had no legal basis for what they were doing, but also recognizing that my compliance (and aforementioned skin color) would very likely make it all be over pretty quickly.

      The second option would be to do what many of the people in the video do. I could, politely, question their reasons for pulling me over, and ask whether I’m being detained. I could refuse to comply with any requests from them I know to be illegal.

      I’d really like to have the courage to do the second option, but I know I’d be risking a long–albeit illegal–detention and probably a very invasive search as well. I might be subjected to brutal–albeit illegal–treatment.

      As I say, none of what I’d be subjected to would be legal, but that wouldn’t be enough to prevent it from happening. Just because we have laws against that sort of thing here doesn’t mean it can’t happen, simply because we sometimes give authority and power to people who are all too happy to abuse it.

      1. Well, given that they would have to pull you over, since they’re required to pull everyone over, you should give your options serious thought to what you would do when they do.  Because you have these same rights at DUI stops as well as DHS stops.

        I’m not telling you which way you should go, but just be aware that if you see cars getting pulled over at checkpoints they’re going to ask questions of you as well so they can’t be accused of profiling.

  8. I’ve played the same game many times here in Germany at the Belgian-German border where I travel almost every week. Since this is an inner border of the European Community, there’s not supposed to be border controls anymore since many years. I got picked out regularly while getting off the train, then went forth to try and expose the procedure’s obvious racism by asking why I was picked, why they obviously only chose persons with dark hair or skin, if I was being detained or if I was free to go and what they intended to do if I refused to cooperate. This led the officers to obviously ignoring me at following occasions, which actually disappoints me a bit because I still see how they jump on other not-so-caucasian-looking passengers, make them open their bags, show ID, etc. I always feel the urge to intervene and tell them that they don’t have to obey and that they should ask on what suspicion they are being held and on what criteria they where picked. As someone whose grandfather was threatened to death for not being Aryan in this very country only 60 years ago, I don’t take it lightly with controls based on my slightly oriental appearance. I later read that another guy who was German with an African ethnicity had actually filed a suit against these controls and won. It is absolutely imperative to learn and make use of one’s rights as a citizen. A police state is no fun to live in!

    1. Did you say stuff like “what is this, nazi germany?” Or “last time I checked, this wasn’t nazi germany!”

      1. Last time I asked them if they could please inform me what I could do to avoid passing as a suspect and if dying my hair blonde might help. That gave me a good laugh from the other 2-3 people they had picked out for control: 2 persons of African ethnicity (is this the political correct expression at the time being?)  and a German Turk. Since then: they (the border police) just seem to ignore me :)

  9. Hm… Out of curiosity:
    If I come to the US as a tourist, with the intent of going on a road trip, and get pulled over by these guys, what legal rights do I have here as a non-US citizen?

    1. What he said. I would love to travel to the usa so I could check out the cultures and the people, but I’ve yet to go (as an adult) because the government’s levels of ‘ground authority’ (eg state patrol, dhs, backwoods local police forces, etc.) look paranoid, controlling, and seemingly made up of humans who only have enough intelligence to follow orders and win pissing contests. In general, these ‘primates with keys to boom-sticks and cages’ are the only reason I avoid the place (I live really close in Canada). Essentially, I am scared that if I visit the place, some crappy baddie in a uniform is just going to ruin my year, as I have no idea what rights, if any, I have. Which sucks, because jazz came from the usa, and jazz rocks so bad I want to show it to other life forms.

      1. I was stopped with my girlfriend at one of these places right next to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico last July. The main road (which was beautifully long and straight) had this turn off which lead to a series of low buildings where officers were stopping every car. Came up to one officer, noticed he was wearing a Homeland Security uniform. We stopped and he asked us if we were US Citizens. No, I said, were British. Can I see your passports, he said. Bugger I thought. Where the hell is it? (We were doing a road trip from California to Texas visiting friends in Santa Fe, NM in between). We dug them out of our bags within a minute, handed them over. He looked at them both, flicked through them. Passed them back. Thank you, he said. No problem, I said. Drove off.

        Then about 2 minutes later, back on the main road, though, hold on. What the fuck was that? Were already inside the United States…what does Homeland Security have to do with the middle of the desert? Figured it was because the whole area is full of military bases. Proceeded to have a great time in the National Monument. Highly recommend it.

        I love the US. I hate all authority figures. None more so than the Met police here in London. There’s a giant exercise in withholding peope’s rights. Don’t even get me started on the City of London police. Now there is a private army if I ever I saw one…

          1. I actually thought Ivor said he lives really close “to” Canada…I was trying to be a smartass by insinuating Quebec wasn’t part of Canada. Just the unfunny Upper Canadian coming out in me.

          2. I did not know you were a Canuck until just now.  Far too many Usians are ignorant enough about geography that they couldn’t be arsed to know exactly how close the majority of your compatriots live to the border.  BTW, nice shouty edit.  ;-)

            Hi, from the part of Michigan that’s rather near Windsor.

          3.  Now see, I would argue that Quebec is the REAL Canada, and the rest of the provinces (other than the Native ones) are filled with infidels.  I mean, people of British heritage.  Just the separatist French Canadian coming out in me. ;-P

          4. I hear ya. I just like tongue-in-cheekily playing up the Ontario v. Quebec trope. I love all Canadians equally. Except those goddamn Albertans.

    2. The US Constitution broadly applies to two groups.
      1. All people on US soil.
      2. All American citizens, anywhere.

      There are a few rights carved out for US citizens only, but the 4th, 5th, and 7th Amendments are not on that list.

    3. Hm… Out of curiosity: If you can to the US as a tourist, why would you want to go to Arizona?!?

        1. oh, yeah! that thing! :)

          Sorry, I grew up near niagara falls.. we tend not to think of other natural wonders ;)

        2. Grand Canyon? Maybe that too, but SMoCA and Scottsdale International Auto Museum made it to my bucket list, and they’re both pretty high up on things to do when I get a chance to visit USA.

    4. Be aware that American road trips are nowhere near as enjoyable as you might think. The distances are seriously long, and we Americans do them largely as a rite of passage. 

      1. It depends on where you’re driving. Palm Springs to Las Vegas through the Mojave is amazing.

  10. LOT of confusing about what is legal and what isnt. Might be really cool if a BoingBoing dudette or dude did a post about what is legal and what aint. 

  11. How would this video have played out if it was a person of color driving? Would a person of color be allowed to be confrontational, or to exercise his or her rights without punishment?

  12. If nothing else, check out 14:20. Its gold. 

    I wish we had probable cause in my country. The police officer where I used to live stopped me because he was lonely.

  13. The creeping and un-Constitutional extension of immigration’s extensive and exceptional powers beyond the border is a major, major problem.

    In summary for those who didn’t watch the video:

    “I don’t have to answer that.”

    “Where is the border?”

    “No, I will not pull over”

    “What agency do you work for?”

    “What is your probable cause?”

    “Do you have a warrant to search me or this vehicle?”

    “What is your name and badge number?”

    “Am I being detained?”

    “Am I free to go?”

    “I’ll have to call my lawyer”

    Again and again — you can be polite (calling people Nazis does not help), but you can also be just as stubborn as they are. And use that camera.

    This is the only way the government will learn.

  14.  My understanding of the DHS point of view on this is that they can setup these checkpoints within 100 miles of the border. When you consider that any international airport is technically part of the border, you realize just how pervasive the DHS could become if it had the funding to staff more of these checkpoints.

    The ironic part for me about this is that the folks most up in arms about the invasion of civil liberties tend to overlap considerably with the folks who are most concerned about deporting illegal immigrants (at least on the Tea Party wing of the civ lib protesters). This is just the logical result of trying to enforce immigration laws more strictly.

  15. Yes, it’s far from perfect here (I’ve been kettled) but I have 6 months until UK citizenship and videos like this, as well as my own experiences at the border when returning to the USA make me wish I could skip summer. And in England only a very earnest  person would skip a summer.

  16. Seems like demonstrations where tons of people drove through checkpoints and politely refused to comply would be popular and successful. Maybe something like Critical Mass.

  17. man i got stuck in a youtube hole of watching these videos a few weeks ago…

    this is one of the best…

  18. Wow, these clips are great! I love seeing people take their rights into action! The one thing I learned from this video: “Am I being detained?” “Am I free to go?” Just say that a hundred times and they’ll let you go! 

  19. One of the stops was an agricultural inspection and many states have huge problems with invasive species and plant diseases. Now I don’t think state Ag dept officials have any right to skirt probable cause either, but I hope if those travelers had fruits and vegetables in their Winnie they dumped them before they went into the state. Proclaiming your rights does not entitle you to be an asshole and ruin industries and jobs.

  20. I’m sure someone will know (and I think I know the answer, but if someone had a definitive reply w/ linkage, that’d be great), but….. does the simple act of refusing to answer a question provide legal basis to suspect you?

    For example, when the one fella answered w/ something like “I respectfully decline to answer your question” and the the brown shirt replied with something like “well I suspect you now”…. is that legally valid?

    My memory and the evidence on the video tells me “no, it’s not”.

  21. Seems to me like the DHS is under pressure to catch terrorists/ illegals probably in the form of quotas (the common way). People who use qotas as a benchmark for success never quite understand that fewer actual instances of a given thing (say, fewer illegal immigrants) will result in fewer examples being found. So if you catch every illegal immigrant in an area- say 5 total, but your quota is 10 it looks like you aren’t doing your job even though you could not do it better.

    The result is crap like this. Overblown expectations don’t meet reality, so now they have to start random nonsense outside of their actual theatre of operation in order to justify their existence.

    Maybe the furloughs of DHS staff will cut this off and people will notice the US isn’t any less safe than it was ten years ago, but much more free to move about.

    1.  Nothing to do with quotas.  It’s just that policing all of a long border is very expensive so they also police at the choke points. In military terms this is called defense in depth.

  22. DHS establishing checkpoints nowhere near the U.S. border is not a new thing.  Inside the U.S., maybe—but they have been present at all major Canadian airports for years.  Nowhere near the U.S. border.

  23. I consider myself a conservative and, by God, I love this. Freedom is neither free or convenient. Sometimes we have to make a stand and do the hard thing just to establish to those in authority that their authority flows from the people, not the government.

  24. I am a police officer in NJ.  The checkpoint itself is legal.  They can briefly detain you and ask you questions in order to develop reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place or is about to take place.  If they DO find reasonable suspicion, they can detain you further and can order you to present identification.  It becomes a little hairy after that.  Reasonable suspicion and probable cause are not the same thing.  Probable cause = arrest.  If I have probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime, you are under arrest.  Period.  But if I have reasonable suspicion that you are up to no good, I can detain you for a debatable amount of time.  I was under the impression that, in the event that I am unable to determine your identity at the scene, I can transport you back to the station to be fingerprinted for identification purposes.  However, another poster earlier in this thread said something in regard to an officer not being allowed to remove the detainee from the initial scene of the detention.  That may or may not be correct and, more than likely, varies by state.

    An example of reasonable suspicion would be if I happened to be on patrol and noticed a passerby peering into the windows of a closed business at 1:00 in the morning.  I don’t have reason to believe that this man has committed a crime, but I certainly have reason to suspect that he is up to no good.

    An example of probable cause would be if I show up to the scene of a domestic assault and the wife has a fresh black eye and claims that her husband punched her when they are the only two people there.  Is it possible that she is lying and did it herself?  Sure, its possible.  Is it more than likely, though, that the husband really did punch her?  Yes.  Thats probable cause.

    The real question in this scenario, I think, is whether or not a persons refusal to answer questions constitutes reasonable suspicion to detain them further?  I have my doubts.

    1. I do wonder how often a DHS officer might “invent” probable cause in response to refusal to answer the questions – the old “I think I smell alcohol on your breath/marijuana smoke/isn’t that a bag of powder on the passenger seat floor”…

      1. DHS has no jurisdiction in those cases inside the US.  You can roll up with an open beer in your hand and they’re going to have to get a police officer to do something about it.  If it were the border it’s a different story, but inside the US isn’t their bailiwick.

    2.  Part of the issue is that these are not state police officers. Do you know for a fact that they have the exact same authority as you do in New Jersey? They may not have the same authority to detain people, especially when the only answer any of them had to “what is your probable cause to look in my trunk/search my vehicle” was to parrot their job description. They never had a satisfactory answer because in none of the instances did they have probable cause that would enable them to search against the consent of the drivers.

  25. It was the 1970s supreme court decision US v Martinez-Fuerte (7-2) that provided the legal authorization for these Border Patrol checkpoints away from the border (they existed before that, but the constitutionality wasn’t challenged until that case). The Supreme Court reversed a circuit court decision that the interior checkpoints were unconstitutional.

    They’re conducted by the Border Patrol, which was one of the agencies rolled in to form the DHS. It’s not a new post-9/11 thing, though they have gotten a significant amount of additional funding in recent years.

  26. I like this one > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlQRY7CtRFU That bit of paper seems like a good idea. There’s another one I can’t find where 2 guys in a truck ask questions like ARE YOU AN AMERICAN CITIZEN? to the roadblock TSA agent before he can ask. They ask a few more and the officer smiling sends them on their way. haha 

    1.  MadZack posted the one you mean not too far upthread (look for the thumbnail with 4409 in green,) but it’s also edited into the posted video, it’s the finale.

    1. You actually have the same rights at a DUI checkpoint. They can ask you all the questions you want but you don’t have to answer any of them. The police are likely to be more aggressive and order you to comply with a few more things because driving on a highway is under their jurisdiction. Determining if you are a citizen driving on a road inside the US is not the job of the DHS, they can ask those questions of me at the border but that’s it.

  27. As if every guy there was some DEA gumshoe about to break a big case. It’s a job that takes most comers. I’ll admit there’s something FPS-megalomaniacal about WANTING that job. But you can’t just caricature these guys. Even if they WORK for the bad guys, this is just baiting a peon and fucking up his day – or worse, his career. Pick your battles. Amateur attorneys tend to have middle names….

    1. I have two middle names, which Stephen Sondheim observes means I am probably an assassin. 

  28.  So, if your response is “I refuse to answer”, aren’t you asserting that you are a US citizen, giving you the right to refuse to answer? On the other hand, if your response is “no, I’m not a US citizen” then of course they have reasonable suspicion. So, effectively, just saying yes (for the one question “are you a US citizen” only) does not mean you are knucking under to a gradual encroachment upon our rights (again, as long as that is the only question).

  29. It seems like you could run into trouble with sniffer dogs this way.  While you’re asking the officer if you’re being detained, a dog comes up and sniffs the outside of the vehicle [1], it alerts of course [2], and there’s their reasonable suspicion for a full search.  Delaying you substantially, and quite possibly causing damage to the vehicle, and who knows what they’ll find that they can try to make into a big deal if they’re pissed at you.

    I sometimes travel with large amounts of currency for work reasons [3].  I am generally all about minimal compliance with government intrusion, but it seems risky to do anything to decrease my chances of being waved along, lest they come up with some excuse to seize my cash and make me spend thousands on lawyers to get it back.  (Of course, another way to decrease risk is to stay the hell away from places like San Diego where this thuggery is more widespread…)

    [1] Somehow the courts have decided sniffing the exterior of the vehicle is not a “search”. Insane.

    [2] Sniffer dogs will always alert if their handler wants them to.  Australia stopped using them after finding a false positive rate over 25%.

    [3] I’ve learned to not keep cash on my person while driving in unsafe areas – by which I mean areas with lots of cops or DHS – so they won’t find it during a Terry frisk.  The trunk is safer.

  30. I’m indignant. But at his recklessness. This whole hullabaloo is moot (vehicle-wise) post-SR. I want to smack this douche in the face with a big ‘ole tome of Godwin’s law. These checkpoints are a save-face for the gov. Let’s go ahead and shut down these officious checkpoints, so MORE resources can go to ACTUAL investigation. You’re ruining the curve, showboat.

  31. OK, that one just before the end is not DHS, but a California Agricultural Inspection. California’s biggest industry is agriculture, especially fruits and vegetables. The Fruit Police (California Border Patrol is another favorite nickname) was set up after several disastrous infestations by pest brought in from out of state. 

    The Department’s legal authority for conducting vehicle and commodity inspections lies in the California Food and Agricultural Code, specifically Sections 5341-5353 and 6301-6465. Although submitting to inspection is voluntary, vehicle and commodities are not allowed to enter until released by an inspector.

    The stations are inside the California border, so they can turn you around and send you away. Note that 99% of cars get waved through. It’s trucks, buses, heavily loaded vehicles, motorhomes, and vans that get inspected. This has been tested in court, and has stood up because the state has shown a compelling need to reduce the chance of infestation.

    In that particular case, the AgCop did give a reasonable cause.. the motorhome likely had a refrigerator and other food storage areas that could contain agricultural products subject to inspection.

    The rest are complete BS. I’m sharing this so people know how to handle these jerks.

  32. Hello,I recognize that I am a bit late to the party on this one, but I’d like to talk about the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which serves as a Constitutional constraint against unreasonable searches and seizures conducted by state or federal police. This is obviously a bit of a crash course, and I am discussing these issues only extremely generally, and there are a multitude of exceptions which are not susceptible to discussion in this forum.There are three levels (very generally, as is this entire discussion) of interaction with police which can occur. First, general discussions instigated by police officers on the street. For instance, if you are buying a slurpee, and a policeman in the 7-11 says “hey, my favorite flavor is cherry, what is yours”; this type of conversation is not considered unreasonable for the purposes of the 4th Amendment, and if some sort of incriminating response were given, it could be admitted against you in court. An extension of this theory is questioning based on consent. This is a fairly common approach taken by law enforcement officials; it will often look something like this, an officer will approach a person, and preface any conversation or questions which follow with “hi, do you mind if I talk to you for a moment?”. Very generally speaking (and there are complicated exceptions) any incriminating statements may be admitted. One is never required to give consent. If you refuse consent, then officers will generally be required to make a decision: if they have probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred, they may arrest you, of if they have a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, they may detain you for further investigation (see Terry stop below), otherwise they may not detain you. Whether denying consent to a search or to questioning may in itself provide the basis for a reasonable suspicion of wrong-doing is a complicated issue, but probably not outside the realm of possibility in some instances.From watching the first video only of the above compilation, my opinion is that officers were trying to go the consent route, and when consent was not given, the person was free to go. Also of note, the gentleman talks a bit about his right to travel; this is not an issue covered by the 4th Amendment (but rather by one, or both of the “Privileges and Immunities” clauses of the United States Constitution) and while it would be the basis for an interesting discussion, I am just going to ignore it for purposes of the discussion of the 4th Amendment. So, that being said, this is (again, in my opinion and experience) an extremely common tactic that law enforcement will use. Practically every conversation an officer will initiate with you will be prefaced by something like “Hey, do you mind if I talk with you for a second?” or the like. I believe it is also common for law enforcement to use social pressure, and other non-verbal factors to imply that a person does not in fact have a choice but to say yes to these questions. However, as can be seen from the first video, if you deny the consent, and ignore how rude you may feel about doing so, then they are generally required to allow you to go about your business (with the below exceptions.)Next up, there is a Terry stop. This is where officers have a suspicion, based upon articulable facts, that the person may be engaged in criminal activity of some kind, which merits further investigation.This does not allow officers to search your vehicle. It does, under some circumstances (if there is a reasonable suspicion to believe that a person may be armed/dangerous), allow officers to give you a “pat down”. Under the “plain feel” doctrine, if they detect weapons, or items which are obviously contraband, they may detain those items.If the investigation, which can include questioning yields information sufficient for probable cause, then the officers may arrest the detained person (see below). To effect an arrest, officers must have probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred. If the crime is a misdemeanor, then the officers must (generally, but again, exceptions) have directly witnessed the crime. Felonies require only the reasonable belief. So, that is the 4th Amendment in a nutshell. To learn more, there is a nice Wikipedia article, and also there are some pretty well done ACLU videos which discuss common interactions with officers.

    Another note worth mentioning, and which I have previously discussed in the forums; there are different rules for administrative searches, and administrative searches do not fall into the above categories generally speaking. For instance, DUI check points, border stops (with one issue being exactly how close to the border/international point of entry for a check point to be considered a border check point), agricultural searches, and air port searches. This is
    something of a complicated area, but generally speaking, searches under these circumstances are much more permissive.

    In any event, I think it is an interesting area of the law (actually, one of my favorite), and the more the public knows about it generally, the better. If you’d like to read more, here is very broad and general outline which covers the material in the way you would learn about it in lawschool.


  33. Can you be polite to these officials without giving up your rights?  For example, could I, without losing any rights, say “I’m sorry to make your job tougher today, sir/ma’am, but I need to stand up for my rights under the constitution.  Am I being detained?  If not, am I free to go?”  Or could I say “Ma’am/sir, with all due respect to you and your authority, I do not consent to a search of my vehicle or person”?

    1. More words equals more opportunities for them to imagine probable cause.

      Loose lips sink ships.

    2. Hi there, thanks for your thoughts, first up, here is the ACLU rundown on your rights during interactions with police, which goes into a lot more detail than I possibly could: http://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform-immigrants-rights-racial-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-you

      Secondly, yes, you absolutely do not have to consent to a search and/or questioning, but it does not mean police will ultimately find they have probable cause to detain or arrest you on other grounds.

      Technically I suppose you don’t even have to be polite about it (see first video of the compilation), but if it was me, I would probably err on the side of politeness, as hostility may be interpreted as providing other grounds for a detention or arrest, and you know, being polite doesn’t cost anything as they say.

      Finally, I’m afraid I don’t have a clue as to what a TL;DR is; sorry! The good news is, if you are interested, you can basically just read the lexis nexis page I posted, which goes over substantially the same material.

      As for recording police, that is an area of law I don’t know anything about I’m afraid, so I am going to demure to talk about that one (I think it would vary by state according to wiretap, privacy and other laws? I know some states have contended with this recently, but again, I’m not sure)

  34. I had no idea this stuff was going on in the border states. From the video, these DHS guys seem to realize all they really have on their side is intimidation and exploitation of citizens’ ignorance.

  35. anyone know a good primer on when/where i’m allowed to film/record interactions with DHS/cops/private security guards?  

    1. This is about as defacto as possible: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers

      I had a link to some other stuff done by a photog-turned-lawyer, but that must be on my older desktop, which I can’t get to at the moment…

      The above is pretty dang good though!

    2. Here’s some more info that just came out recently:

      In the statement filed this week in a federal court in Maryland, the Justice Department argues that not only do individuals have a First Amendment right to record officers publicly doing their duties, they also have Fourth and 14th Amendment rights protecting them from having those recordings seized without a warrant or due process. The DOJ urges the court to uphold these rights and to reject a motion to dismiss from Montgomery Co. in Garcia v. Montgomery Co., a case that has implications for an increasing crop of litigation on the subject in the era of ubiquitous smartphones.

  36. Does refusing to answer the question “Are you an American citizen” prevent some nefarious next step? Does knowing that information grant the asker additional permissions to further invade your privacy? I feel really ignorant about this. I understand “the principle of the thing,” but is that all there is?

    1. The more that you engage with them, the more opportunity they have to trick you into a search.

  37. Just remember: A law enforcement officer in uniform is not your friend.  They are trained to be suspicious of you, lie to you, and coerce you to commit actions that violate your rights out of fear. Friends don’t do that.

  38. DHS officers gonna start “Going Homeland” before too long, doing crazy shit nobody wants to see happen. Too little training, too much bullshit

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