United States v. Martinez-Fuerte: 40 Years Later [SCOTUSbrief]

Posted by


US v. Martinez-Fuerte is a 1976 Supreme Court
case in which the court held seven to two that the Border Patrols’ establishment of
fixed interior checkpoints do not violate the 4th Amendment, which protects from unreasonable
searches and seizures. Interior checkpoints existed for decades before
US v. Martinez-Fuerte, but this was a case involving what are called fixed interior checkpoints,
as opposed to roving checkpoints. And a question was whether the establishment
of these checkpoints ran afoul of the 4th Amendment. The Supreme Court in some other cases, had
considered whether a warrant was required, or probable cause was required for the searching
of vehicles. But Martinez-Fuerte dealt explicitly with
the establishment of these checkpoints, whether it was constitutional for Border Patrol to
ask people driving on the roads whether they’re US citizens, or, and questions similar to
that. At checkpoints, Customs and Border Protection
area allowed to ask a simple questions, like, “Are you a US Citizen?” And if they’re not satisfied with the answer,
or they suspect something suspicious, they’re allowed to pass, or direct the vehicles to
secondary inspection, where more invasive questioning can take place. If Border Patrol wants to search a vehicle
in secondary, they need probable cause, a warrant, or the consent of the driver. In Martinez-Fuerte, the US Supreme Court actually
explicitly mentioned that referring some drivers to secondary because of perceived Mexican
ancestry did not violate the 4th Amendment. This was criticized by Justice Brennan, who
wrote the dissent in the case. The majority though, said that the majority
of cars that go through these checkpoints are never referred to secondary, and that
actually, we shouldn’t worry too much about the discriminatory impact that that might
have. The government argued in Martinez-Fuerte,
that these fixed internal checkpoints did not run afoul of the 4th Amendment, because,
uh, the checkpoints were reasonable, they did not unduly impact on driver’s privacy,
intrude into their lives, and that such checkpoints were necessary to secure the border from contraband. Martinez-Fuerte and the other people involved
in the case, uh, argued that these checkpoints, uh, did violate, uh, the 4th Amendment. In this case, these checkpoints were not actually
at the border, but on highways in California. The idea here, being that, actually, the Border
Patrol’s in position away from the border did violate the 4th Amendment’s right to be
secure in your person’s houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and
seizures. Some of the most concerning aspects of these
kind of checkpoints is the area in which they’re allowed to operate. Thanks to statute and regulatory interpretations,
CBP has the authority to set up permanent fixed checkpoints within 100 miles of the
US borders. That includes the Northern border, the Southern
border, as well as the East and West coasts. Now, 100 miles from that, those areas includes
some of America’s largest cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Boston,
and entire states, uh, much of New England and the entire state of Florida is included
in this area. Studies reveal that the majority of people
arrested at these checkpoints are not in fact illegal aliens, but either legal residents,
or American citizens. And that these checkpoints are more effective
at enforcing drug laws than they are immigration violation. And some might applaud the fact that these
checkpoints catch illegal drugs, but it’s worth emphasizing that the point of these
checkpoints is to apprehend illegal immigrants, and those smuggling human beings. CBP also has numerous authorities when it
comes to international arrival airports, which are scattered all across the United States. The best argument, I think that the government
has in cases like these, is that it’s very, very difficult to inspect vehicles at the
border, that a lot of contraband is smuggled in using vehicles, and that these stops are
not actually as intrusive as many people seem to think they are. Because some of these checkpoints are established
on roads not far away from the border, they can be highly confident that these cars must
have come from the border. There aren’t many roads in a lot of these
places.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *