© 2024 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.

Border Patrol case involving use of highway checkpoints dismissed in federal court

A federal lawsuit challenging how the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol use of highway checkpoints has been dismissed.

The settlement ends a case that challenged the agency's use of the checkpoints on major highways. They are typically used during the busy summer tourist seasons. The case was dismissed Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who represented plaintiffs, are calling the case a major victory. A checkpoint has not been used on Interstate 93 in Woodstock, New Hampshire — the region at the center of the case — since 2019, according to the civil rights organization.

Parties agreed Border Patrol would not restart the Woodstock checkpoint until January 1, 2025. And it was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the case could be brought up again.

The case brought attention to Border Patrol's activities in New England. The agency has the authority to set up checkpoints within 100 miles of the country's borders. That covers most of New England.

Maine ACLU legal director Carol Garvan said the case sets a precedent that will protect Mainers from unlawful searches in the future.

"We continue to believe that these are beyond the bounds of CBP's authority, and that they violate people's rights when they're subjected to these broad checkpoints of every vehicle passing through an area."

The case came about after Border Patrol stopped a group of people on I-93 in New Hampshire in 2017 and searched their cars. The ACLU chapters argued those searches were beyond the agency's purview. A Plymouth, New Hampshire circuit court judge agreed, calling the searches unconstitutional. The ACLU brought the case to the federal level in 2020.

A spokesperson for Border Patrol said in a statement that the agreement will allow it to continue its work of protecting the border.

The ACLU also pressured busing agencies, including New Hampshire-based Concord Coach Lines, to stop allowing Border Patrol to board their buses without a warrant. That practice gained attention around the same time as the checkpoint incidents.

Reporter Caitlin Andrews came to Maine Public in 2023 after nearly eight years in print journalism. She hails from New Hampshire originally.