On December 8, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire filed a motion challenging the constitutionality of the border patrol checkpoints that occurred last August and September on Interstate 93 in Woodstock, New Hampshire. Woodstock is a small town (population 1,374) in the White Mountains—a popular tourist attraction—that is approximately 90 driving miles from the Canadian border.
The ACLU-NH filed this motion on behalf of 18 individuals who, during these checkpoints, were travelling in New Hampshire lawfully and were seized and searched without any suspicion that they had committed a crime. These individuals were ultimately charged with allegedly possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use. These 18 individuals are being represented by Gilles Bissonnette (Legal Director for the ACLU-NH), Professor Buzz Scherr from UNH School of Law, Mark Sisti, and Sven Wiberg. The motion is scheduled for a hearing on January 11, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. in Plymouth District Court. The motion can be found here.
As stated in the ACLU-NH’s motion, during these border patrol checkpoints, the Woodstock Police Department (“WPD”) and the New Hampshire State Police separately worked in concert with United States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) to circumvent the independent protections provided by the New Hampshire Constitution against dog-sniff searches in the absence of a warrant or reasonable suspicion. Specifically, federal CBP agents used dog-sniff searches in situations where New Hampshire law enforcement would have been barred from conducting similar searches. Resulting evidence from these federal searches was then turned over to state law enforcement for drug prosecutions.
These unlawful searches had a considerable impact. During these checkpoints, hundreds—if not thousands—of individuals lawfully travelling in New Hampshire through the White Mountains during the summer and fall tourist seasons were illegally searched by law enforcement without any suspicion that they had committed a crime. This runs contrary to the New Hampshire Constitution’s protections against arbitrary stops and searches.
On May 1, 2018, the Court concluded that the checkpoints violated the New Hampshire and Federal Constitutions.