Oct 4, 2013 8:46 PM by Nathan O'Neal

What are your rights at a Border Patrol checkpoint?

TUCSON - If you have driven across Southern Arizona you might have run into one of 11 Border Patrol checkpoints with agents often questioning travelers -- but how far is too far?

A Youtube video has gained a lot of attention -- with more than 80,000 views as of this story -- that documents a lengthy confrontation happening at the I-19 Border Patrol checkpoint. (You can see the full video here)

In the 14-minute video, the woman says she is making her way from Nogales, Ariz., to Vail when agents tell her they want her to pull over to search her car.

"Can you park your car up there right by those orange cones," ask the Border Patrol agent.

"No -- are you detaining me? Am I free to go?" replied the woman in the car.

"No, you are not free to go... You are detained," the agent continues.

The woman goes on to ask why the agent is detaining her and he says that they "have suspicion that there might be criminal activity going on."

The woman tells the agent that she is a U.S. citizen but refuses to let agents search her car because, she said, that drug dogs had already sniffed the perimeter of the vehicle and found nothing.

Toward the end of the video, additional agents become involved and the dialogue gets heated before agents run a check on the woman and she is eventually let go without searching the car.

News 4 Tucson tried to contact Border Patrol -- in both its offices in Tucson and in Washington, D.C. -- but received no response because of federal furloughs.

However, a pamphlet that is hounded out at checkpoints says that: "Border Patrol checkpoints are a critical enforcement tool for securing the Nation's borders against all threats to our homeland." They are also used to curb human smuggling and drug trafficking.

Alessandra Soler with the ACLU of Arizona said that Border Patrol agents have heightened authority within the country's borderlands.

"Basically the courts have said that CBP can ask you questions about your citizenship and then detain you for a reasonable amount of time to confirm that citizenship," Soler said.

However, Soler said that does not translate to unlimited authority for searches without just cause.

"They have the authority to conduct these administrative searches and often times are exceeding that authority," Soler said.

It is unclear when the Youtube video was taken and what took place before the recording started. However, it's important to note that legal experts say if you find yourself in any kind of situation with federal agents, to try and remain respectful at every step of the way.


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