Invoke Your Rights: Get Held 19 Days without Trial

If you appeal to your rights to the fourth amendment, and other Constitutional guarantees, expect to be punished.

The one criminal charge is dropped. No trial. No jury gets to decide between you and your accusers.

But you get to spend nineteen days in jail anyway.

Via Police State USA: “Truck drivers jailed for 19 days after exercising rights at federal checkpoint.”

US Customs and Border Protection

The incident occurred at approximately midnight on September 26th, 2014. According to Reason TV, a semi-truck hauling Xerox copier machines was stopped at the Laredo North Border Patrol Station, which is miles away from the border on I-35 North inside Texas.

The driver and his passenger were questioned by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents while stopped at the checkpoint. The men — fed up with the routine harassment from federal agents while crisscrossing the United States — were exercising their rights to not answer questions.

Greg Rosenberg, the passenger, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who grew up in Soviet-ruled Armenia. He speaks with an accent and is passionate about keeping this country free. He recalled his version of events in an interview with Reason TV.

Border Patrol became increasingly hostile as the driver politely refused to participate in the roadside interrogation. Mr. Rosenberg sat in the passenger seat recording the incident.

“You have a legal right to ask me a question. I have a legal right not to answer your question,” the driver said in a cell-phone recording.

The CBP officer requested that the truck move to the “secondary checkpoint area” for further questioning. The request was refused, Rosenberg said, because there was “no probable cause to do so.”

Shortly thereafter, the two men were yanked from the truck and put into handcuffs. Only the final 2 minutes of the video were salvaged because CBP officers later confiscated Mr. Rosenberg’s cell and tried to delete the evidence.

Rosenberg recalls that CBP officers scoffed at his invocation of the Constitution. Most tellingly, they offered to let him go without charges if he would acknowledge that he was wrong and apologize for his non-compliance. He refused.

Rosenberg was held two weeks before he even got to see his lawyer. Then, in another five days, the charge of obstructing a checkpoint was dropped and he was released.

If he had done something so obviously wrong and illegal, why didn’t they press charges?

Probably because, even though they claim a Supreme Court decision, authorities at the Federal government know that this kind of case could easily go to the Supreme Court. If it did so, then how could they be sure the Supreme Court wouldn’t either reverse themselves or find that some aspect of their checkpoints was never what they had in mind?

[See also, “How Oregon Wants to Celebrate Independence Day: ‘No Refusal Weekend.’]

On the other hand, they have no real need to sentence the man. If they can get away with imprisoning a person for “checkpoint refusal,” then they know that most people are going to remain compliant. How many busy, productive people can afford to spend almost three weeks in jail with no prior notice? Most drivers and passengers are going to comply with CBP officers not because they believe it is constitutional, but because they know they can have real consequences inflicted upon them.

That’s the country we live in now. It doesn’t matter what is really legal. All that matters is what someone with a badge can get away with.