ACLU-NH calls federal roadblock across I-93 'imposition of a police state' | New Hampshire
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ACLU-NH calls federal roadblock across I-93 'imposition of a police state'

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 13. 2017 11:46AM
A driver documented a U.S. Border Patrol roadblock on I-93 in Woodstock in August. (Facebook)

The New Hampshire branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has urged a judge to dismiss drug charges brought against 18 of the people snared in an immigration checkpoint earlier this year on Interstate 93 in Woodstock.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers operated the checkpoint, which resulted in the detention of 33 people for immigration violations and others on minor drug charges.

In total, 42 people were arrested on drug charges, the ACLU said. Of those, 40 were arrested on violation-level charges similar to a traffic ticket and two were arrested on Class B misdemeanor charges. None of those charges carries jail time.

The checkpoint officers relied on drug-sniffing dogs provided by Customs and Border Protection.

"Given this significant intrusion, these checkpoints can only be described as the imposition of a police state," said Albert "Buzz" Scherr, a law professor at University of New Hampshire Law School, who signed onto the filing, along with defense lawyers Mark Sisti and Sven Wiberg.

Previous news reports say 33 were detained on immigration violations during the two checkpoints, one held in late September, the other in late August.

Meanwhile, Customs and Border Protection announced that in the 12-month period ending on Sept. 30, its New England and eastern New York operation apprehended 479 people on immigration violations.

The ACLU's filing can be viewed below:

Of those apprehensions, 449 took place in the Swanton sector, which includes New Hampshire, Vermont and northeastern areas of New York. The sector logged 291 apprehensions the previous year.

Until this summer, Customs and Border Protection had not operated a checkpoint in New Hampshire for four years.

"The increase in apprehensions this fiscal year can be attributed to a more pro-active enforcement posture over the last year, including increased checkpoint operations and transportation checks. We have also increased our intelligence capabilities which has resulted in improved targeting of transnational criminal organizations," said Stephanie Malin, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection.

Customs and Border Protection did not provide data online about recent drug confiscations. But in fiscal year 2016, it confiscated 450 pounds of marijuana and one pound of cocaine at the Swanton Sector, the largest of any sector along the northern U.S. border.

In its memorandum of law, the ACLU asked that a simultaneous suppression hearing be held on the 18 cases. A hearing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 11 in Plymouth Circuit Court.

"These checkpoints flagrantly violated the New Hampshire Constitution," said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the ACLU-NH and co-counsel on the case, in a statement.

"The New Hampshire Constitution is more protective of privacy than the United States Constitution. Yet (Customs and Border Protection), the (Woodstock Police Department), and the State Police all ignored these added privacy protections afforded to individuals in New Hampshire. They searched and seized all the individuals at these checkpoints without any reason to believe that they had committed a crime. This is not how a free society works."

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