Fourth Amendment

U.S. Court Gives Thumbs-Up to Snoopy Checkpoints Near-ish the Border


A recent federal ruling in Arizona reinforces the growing use of border stops conducted far from the border, and intended for border security purposes in general, and immigration control in particular, to enforce pretty much any law of interest to the federal government. This, points out, despite a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such roadblocks aren't supposed to turn into criminal fishing expeditions.

Good odds that you live in the "Constitution-free zone"

Experienced travelers know that one of the peculiar attractions of motoring through the desert Southwest is the time spent in contemplative meditation under the warm sun, along a stretch of dusty, beer-bottle-festooned Interstate, waiting to be briefly questioned and then (hopefully) waved through a roadblock by sweaty Border Patrol agents tens of miles from anyplace that might reasonably be represented on a map by a thick, dotted line.

Such restful interludes come courtesy of the "border search exception," which holds that there's an escape clause from the Fourth Amendment, maybe written in invisible ink on the back of the Constitution, allowing for warrantless searches of travelers within 100 miles of the border. Why 100 miles? That appears to be an executive-branch riff on Supreme Court decisions, such as United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, holding that "[a]utomotive travelers may be stopped at fixed checkpoints near the border without individualized suspicion, even if the stop is based largely on ethnicity." The exception holds, writes the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, in the recent case of US v. Ruiz-Perez (PDF), because "Immigration checkpoints such as the one at issue in this case serve a public interest in securing the border."

Public interest? Oh. Well, of course.

Summarizing the case, writes:

On January 19, 2011, Omar Ruiz-Perez, a commercial truck driver, was hauling produce from a warehouse in Rio Rico, Arizona to Los Angeles, California for the MRM Xpress trucking company. At around 8:30pm, he hit the roadblock on Interstate 19 located twenty-five miles from the actual border with Mexico.

Border Patrol Agent Christopher Thornton stopped him, and Ruiz-Perez explained that he was a US citizen and provided copies of his bill of lading, as requested. Thornton claimed the truck's US DOT number was "suspiciously high" and the truck's paint was not pristine. He asked if he could look in the back of the truck, and Ruiz-Perez said he did not care. Agents x-rayed the truck and found a hidden compartment containing drugs.


In upholding the stop and subsequent search and arrest over the defendant's objections, Judge Jennifer G. Zipps insists, "the gravity of the public concerns served by the I-19 Checkpoint are high, the checkpoint was reasonably related to these concerns, and the severity of the interference with individual liberty was minimal."

In 2000, in the case of City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, the Supreme Court had ruled against all-purpose vehicle checkpoints, saying, "[w]e cannot sanction stops justified only by the generalized and ever-present possibility that interrogation and inspection may reveal that any given motorist has committed some crime."

But Judge Zipps gives the roadblock in this case a pass because it was billed as a border checkpoint within that magic 100-mile zone around the perimeter of the country—a "Constitution-free zone," warns the ACLU, that includes nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population.

See's full story here.

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  1. For some reason CBP has a checkpoint in Sarita, Texas. I dare you to come up with one thing that has ever happened in Sarita, Texas.

    Seriously, look the place up.

      1. And the local news forgets that if it started at the Sarita checkpoint, it started in Kenedy County.

        They forgot because Kenedy County is barely a real place.

        1. 416 residents may or may not agree with you.

  2. That Hawaii map looks like a Syracuse University grad colored it.

  3. What the fuck? My entire state? This explains so much about FL.

    1. Syracuse University grad colored that too.

      1. You can tell it wasn’t a UF grad, because it isn’t in crayon.

        1. Don’t let evidence spoil my theory. Think of the polar bears!

        2. My bad for misreading. Thank you for peer reviewing my theory.

  4. Ah yes, the government gets to override its charter when it’s officers decide they really want to exception to the U.S. Constitution. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m told it’s all that’s keeping us from a short lived feudal dark age that ends with the Earth turning into a hothouse like Venus.

    1. Clearly you want the terrorists to win. Why do you hate America?

  5. So the entire city of Houston (and the whole state of Florida)? Never seen one around here though.

  6. way back in ’90, my brother and I were heading south on the highway towards Tuscon, AZ when we got shunted off to a random border patrol checkpoint. Which is kind of strange, since any illegals would have been heading north.

    We were asked for identification and (this was a Nissan Sentra wagon) the back was given a cursory look. Odd.

  7. Ah yes, the government gets to override its charter when it’s officers decide they really want to exception to the U.S. Constitution. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m told it’s all that’s keeping us from a short lived feudal dark age that ends with the Earth turning into a hothouse like Venus.

  8. …to enforce pretty much any law of interest to the federal government.

    Why do you hate American sovereignty?

  9. The right knows not to let a crisis go to waste either.

  10. btw, it looks like Michigan is a 100% Constitution-free zone! What do we win?

    1. Michigan’s always winning shit that sucks. Nothing good.

      Stupid Michigan!

    2. Yeah, WFT — the boundary with Wisconsin down the middle of Lake Michigan is not an international border.

      1. I’m thinking the ACLU just used Photoshop to do a color stroke on a set number of pixels (whatever = 100 miles) on the inside of an outline of the united states and then laid it over this map. And then forgot to delete areas where it didn’t make sense.

    3. I live in Michigan. I was just thinking to myself “At least I don’t live within 100 miles of the border, so I don’t have to worry about that here.”

      Then I realized I do live close to the border. It just happens to be the “good” border, so they don’t do crazy traffic stops around here.

      1. Canada is just as suspicious as Mexico and both are right up there with the Atlantic Ocean.

    4. “What do we win?”

      You get to keep Detroit. You’re welcome!

  11. I like that when you scroll over West Virginia, it says Virginia. Apparently, the ACLU is using maps from 1862 for their info-graphics.

    1. Someday the South shall rise again and right the wrong that is West Virginia.

      1. Someday the South shall rise again and right the wrong that is West Virginia.

        Oh dear lord please no! Yes, WV is the only State made from part of another State without that State’s permission, but we don’t want them back!

  12. I’m guessing 80% of the population of this country lives in those “border search exception” area. All of New England, Michigan, and Florida?

    1. Close. The map caption says about 2 out of 3 live in a “Constitution free zone”.

  13. Why aren’t international airports and 100 miles from their environs considered border zones as well? That would fill in most of the rest of the map nicely and I for one would like to know why the INS and CBP aren’t doing everything in their power to protect me.

    1. Don’t give them ideas!

    2. I don’t know about airports, but if you are on a boat, you can be boarded and searched anywhere, at any time, and you can’t do anything about it. The boat exemption even allows the inspectors to drill holes in your boat to search for hidden compartments.

  14. written in invisible ink on the back of the Constitution

    It’s right next to the map to the secret subterranean lair built by the illuminatti and the lizard people aliens from the horsehead nebula, from whence they’ve secretly ruled the entire world for the last 500 years (until Nicolas Cage finds out about it of course).

    Coming Soon: National Treasure 3: The Lizard Conspiracy

    Your welcome, Hollyweird

    1. Don’t you have an invasion of Earth to plan, before your brother and his pals assemble to try to stop it?

      1. I guess it never occurred to you that getting Hollywood to make shitty follow-ups to popular movie franchises and thereby demoralizing large swaths of the public might be part of the plan.

        Or do you have a better explanation for the Matrix sequels, Star Wars Episodes 1-3, the Transformers sequels, and of course the piece de resistance, Indiana Jones and the Kindom of the Crystal Skulls?

        1. Hey, when the nukes drop, I want my Frigidaire!

  15. BTW, if it is an illegal immigration checkpoint, why do they have vehicle x-ray machines there? Wouldn’t that make it a supposedly illegal drug search stop? Do they catch many illegals through use of x-rays, and considering how powerful the x-rays (I am guessing) have to be to penetrate metal, are they dangerous to people?

    1. are they dangerous to people?

      “We don’t care. If you care about the dangers to your health that ionizing radiation might cause, we suggest not crossing the border illegally.”
      -INS Spokescretin.

  16. I guess I’m gonna have to stop taking the terrorists to Big Beaver, Sask … dropping them off and them pointing south to the great satan. Not to mention the cargo ship loads of pot….

  17. Did we say 100 miles? We meant 1000.

  18. I enjoy it when judges basically just decide to toss out parts of the con. that are inconvenient if it serves a “public interest”.

    I’m moving to Hong Kong. Barely any cops, and nobody gives a shit what you do as long as you’re not bothering anybody else.

    Sucks living in a $300,000 closet, though : (.

    1. a $300,000 closet

      *choke* *sputter* *faint* *die*

  19. How many times do we need to point out: there’s nothing to fear if you’ve done nothing wrong??


    Stop resisting, already!

  20. I wonder about all that stuff on the East coast. They appear to be drawing the line from any shoreline including that of the Chesapeake. Would the ruling favor that interpretation?

  21. Your papers are not in order…

    1. Yes they are. They even come in a nice little pop up package with the words “Zig-Zag” printed on it.

  22. Yor freedumz r belong 2 us!!!!1!!!!111!!

  23. Why is Chicago in the “Constitution-Free Zone”? All of Lake Michigan is U.S. territory.

  24. Canada made us do it because the US is the border point between Canada and Mexico.

  25. I’m pretty sure anybody who has ever been to traffic court would agree that the figure is something more like 100%.

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