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Custome & Border Patrol Finally stopped me--with armed police


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#1 rockydoc

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 08:57 PM

Finally it happened—I was detained and searched by Customs/Borderz Patrol while armed police stood by and watched.  Looking back on the blatant lies and pure intimidation that was used sickened me.  Here are the details:

1.      After landing, a customs agent approached my air craft and told me he was here to do a “pilot credentials” check.

2.       I said I was happy to cooperated with him.  I asked him if this was a ramp check.  He said no, not a ramp check—only a “pilot credentials check” which would only take a minute.

3.      An armed policeman accompanied him and stood by, arms folded, and watched everything.

4.      The agent asked for the aircraft registration and AWC.  I reminded him inn a non-confrontational manner and tone that he had said it was a “pilot credentials” check.  So why does he want any documents on the airplane.  He refused to answer and repeated his request.

5.     I presented pilot’s licence, medical, USA passport, USA driver’s license, AWC, and aircraft registration documents.

6.     He then started asking me questions.  i.e. where did I come from, where had I been before then, who my passenger was, etc., etc.

7.     All along he was telling me that he only had “one more question” and then I could be on my way

8.     He then said my AWC was torn and therefore invalid.  He said that I knew the AWC was not valid.  He then asked me to agree with him that it was not valid.  I told him I disagreed.  That I felt it was entirely valid.  He asked when was the last aircraft inspection.  I told him an annual inspection had been done one and one half months ago.  He wanted to see the log books.  I told him I didn’t have them.  And, that as he must know that the FAA does not require the log books to be kept on the airplane.  He then said that the FAA had no record of this aircraft ever being inspected.  I reminded him that the FAA didn’t have any records of any aircraft having being inspected because inspections were only entered in the log books and were not required to be filed with the FAA.

9.      He then said that the AWC was supposed to be left in the airplane where it could be seen.  I told him that that is where it was until he asked me to give it to him.  He further said that my medical said I was supposed to be wearing glasses when I fly and that I didn’t have glasses on.  I assured him that I did have glasses on, apparently he just didn’t see them because I took them off as I shut down the airplane and left them in the airplane so I would always have them.

10. He then said, “You don’t mind if I look in your aircraft do you?”  I responded that out of respect for my grandfather and father who had both honorably served in the USA military as I had that I would not disrespect their service to our country and its principals by giving up my constitutional right to search without a search warrant.  He then became hostile telling me I was creating problems for myself and this routine stop could be ended quickly, but only if I allowed him to “look at my aircraft.”  I told him he was welcome to “look” at my aircraft from the outside as much as he wanted, but not to enter it without a search warrant.  Things quickly escalated and he began questioning my passenger.  When he did this, I went to the police officer and asked him directly if I was free to go.  He said that the Customs official was the one to make that decision.

11.  I then walked over to where the Cusoms official was questioning my passenger and told her to tell him that she wanted an attorney and would not say anything to him until an attorney was present.  I then asked him directly if I was free to go.  He said “No.”  When he said that, I replied by saying that I wanted also an attorney and had nothing else to say until the attorney was here.  He then said I was free to go, but, I could not take any of my things out of the airplane and could not take my airplane.  Only “I” and my passenger was free to go.

12.  He then told me that he would let dogs inspect the airplane.  I told him I did not want dogs up on the airplane because they would damage the paint with their toe nails.

13. He then called in the dogs ignoring my last statement.  The dog was all over the wings of the airplane.  I could hear the toe nails scapping the paint.  Then   he said the dog had a “positive result” and he was going to search my airplane.  I said, “Not without a search warrant.”  He said that he didn’t have to have a search warrant because of the dog’s “positive result.”

14. I then stood by while he emptied my airplane and took out seats and panels searching everywhere. 

15. After an hour and a half of this, when he and the police officer that were searching the aircraft, found nothing (because there was never anything to find).  He said, I could leave.  I asked him if my passenger and I could take our belongings and if I could take the airplane.  He said he was only Customs and Border Patrol officer and that he had no authority to ground my airplane and it was up to me to “do what I thought was right.”  I said I would contact the FAA and ask them if I needed to replace the AWC and follow their instructions.

16. He then wanted me to say in front of the two police officers that the dog had not damaged the airplane.  I declined to answer him.

17.   He, the two police and the dog left.

18.   Through out this entire process he was very beligerant and over powering.  Every time I tried to speak to give my side of anything, he refused to listen to me and told me to, “be quiet.”  I was very intimidated by him, but because of the AOPA’s guidelines and the prior discussions on this forum, I knew that it was important that I be friendly and cooperative—which I was.



#2 mike_elliott

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 09:26 PM

Where and when did this happen? Do you care to share the badge number and name of the customs officer publicly?



#3 FormationHY

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 09:44 PM

I wonder if there was a way to film the whole event with a hidden camera and if so, would have been legal. Since sometimes people overstep their authority just to make a showing.

#4 flyboy0681

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:09 PM

Very scary indeed. You followed all of the recommendations given by AOPA and attorney's here on MS that were generous enough to give their professional opinions on how to deal with these situations.

 

It seems to me that the dogs could give them an instant cause to search the plane. Even if the dogs didn't respond, the official could say that the dogs did give a response. Prove they didn't.

 

I've always wondered about something. When these guys go home at night, are they regular family guys (and gals) who joke around, play catch with their kids and cuddle up to their spouse? Or are they the same hardened paramilitary officials that they portray during these interrogation sessions?

 

Lastly, I've always told myself that if faced with the same situation that I would not video the incident but would put my phone on record and place it in my shirt pocket.

 

Thanks for sharing your harrowing ordeal.



#5 BigTex

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:20 PM

I'd contact AOPA and share this story.  Clearly this is unacceptable and can not continue.


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#6 Cruiser

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:22 PM

did you think of taking pictures or video ? Having hear and read of these type of "inspections" you should contact AOPA and tell them what happened. If you haven't done so already, write it down so you remember all the details. If for no other reason than to " tell this story" to your grandchildren. I am sure you will be repeating it many times.

 

I wonder what would happen if the local newspaper and TV station had reporters there while this was going on? Do you think the agent would have acted differently? Was this on outside the FBO? Were there any other people around watching what was going on?

It sounds like he was alone? I thought the CBP always worked in teams.

 

I assume he left the plane dis assembled? i.e. seats and panels? Did he expect you to put them back? It sounds like he was knowledgeable in FAA regulations and had some experience if he disassembled the aircraft. Did the dogs scratch the paint on the wings?


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A plane is safe in a hangar but that is not what a plane is for.

#7 Cruiser

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:34 PM

I wonder if there was a way to film the whole event with a hidden camera and if so, would have been legal. Since sometimes people overstep their authority just to make a showing.

 

Unfortunately, these people are TAUGHT to be intimidating and aggressive in demeanor as part of their ability to project a deliberate position of dominance. They WANT you to be afraid of them and submissive.


aka TomK
A plane is safe in a hangar but that is not what a plane is for.

#8 aaronk25

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:50 PM

I wonder what would have happened if you locked the door and told him without a warrant your not opening it.....

I would have been polite but no way would they have gotten inside, but then again I'd probably still be there and you got to leave.

In Mexico armed guards searched the plane at every stop, but that's expected. Here in the US we have more rights, or atleast I thought we did.....

I feel I could not have contained myself and surely would have told them to "go pound sand".......

#9 rob

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:51 PM

I second the notion that this may be a good thing to record. In sure some of our attorney members will chime in, but I don't believe that there's any expectation of privacy in a public place (which is likely under video surveillance anyway) so I can't imagine any issue with recording...

#10 BigTex

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:55 PM

Just curious... Does the condition of the AWC actually matter?  Last time I check, mine after 50 years isn't in the best shape either.


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#11 Zane Williams

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:58 PM

On those facts, assuming you were not landing back in the US for the first time from an international flight, you have a strong case for suing the government for wrongfully arresting you and searching your aircraft without a warrant.

 

As soon as he says you are not free to go, you are under arrest, handcuffs or no.  If it was done without probable cause, your only remedy is to sue the government for money damages.

 

Check with an attorney in the state where it happened.  You need a civil rights attorney.  I am one, by the way.


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#12 N201MKTurbo

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:59 PM

I would be glad to write a letter to the powers that be. Could we get details so we could identify the incident. Time, airport aircraft number, assho.. (Agents) name and number. Etc...

#13 triple8s

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 11:18 PM

History repeats itself through the ages. I have always been fascinated with WWII history since a young kid, watched lots of WWII movies and read books and so on. Saw Shindler's List, made me wonder how could they do this to there own countrymen, how much more the Jews would have helped the German war effort had they not been singled out for extermination. I watched a documentary one time about an experiment on how good people can be persuaded to carry out atrocities and it makes sense. The very thing can happen in this country, no doubt in my mind. Heck the Japanese were rounded up and placed in internment camps during WWII. Search for "The Milgram Experiment" it is very disturbing to say the least.
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#14 Yetti

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 11:45 PM

On those facts, assuming you were not landing back in the US for the first time from an international flight, you have a strong case for suing the government for wrongfully arresting you and searching your aircraft without a warrant.

 

As soon as he says you are not free to go, you are under arrest, handcuffs or no.  If it was done without probable cause, your only remedy is to sue the government for money damages.

 

Check with an attorney in the state where it happened.  You need a civil rights attorney.  I am one, by the way.

It would also be interesting to know if you at any point in your flight you came within 100 miles of an international border....  That is the "jurisdiction" of the Border Patrol.  Ask for the dispatch log from the local police and the Border Patrol.   If they refuse, then freedom of information requests.



#15 bluehighwayflyer

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 11:46 PM

Not defending CBP here in any way, shape, form, or fashion, but read this about the border seach exception to the 4th amendment and then realize that there is case law that suggests that airports are extensions of the border. It is called the extended border seach doctrine. No probable cause required. The suspicion required for more than a routine search was provided by the dog alert. Best of luck to you in proving otherwise. Seriously. I wish you the best of luck. Were there any physical damages? To the paint from the dogs or otherwise?

http://en.wikipedia....earch_exception
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#16 Mooneymite

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 11:47 PM

I hope you will post this on other forums (AOPA.org, etc) to get the widest possible distribution.

 

I can't wait to see what AOPA does about this!



#17 Yetti

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 12:02 AM

Also did you witness the dog "hit" It is easy to get a dog to fake "hit" by the handler.   They will pull on the leash and say "good boy" or some other command or drop a ball or toy, then the dog will react.     If the dog barks, sits or starts scratching on it's own then the handler gives it a toy, then it is a good hit.  Where did the dog hit?
Where was the dog and handler from, local or CBP? Since nothing was found, if it was local dog and nothing was found get the filed report, and have a conversation with the local PD about how it's dog can hit and nothing was found.

 

Also you need to file a complaint with the FSDO since non A&Ps or pilots were working on a certified airplane.



#18 astelmaszek

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 12:02 AM

Yeah,

 

Dealt with the same douchebags two years ago, on the delivery flight of my mooney. Identical MO. Unpleasant bunch of pricks. I bet you they would have no problems testifying that they were just doing their jobs.

 

http://mooneyspace.c...ity-experience/



#19 N6719N

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 12:07 AM

Gee, cooperating and being polite really seems to pay off!

#20 Yetti

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 12:13 AM

Not defending CBP here in any way, shape, form, or fashion, but read this about the border seach exception to the 4th amendment and then realize that there is case law that suggests that airports are extensions of the border. It is called the extended border seach doctrine. No probable cause required. The suspicion required for more than a routine search was provided by the dog alert. Best of luck to you in proving otherwise. Seriously. I wish you the best of luck. Were there any physical damages? To the paint from the dogs or otherwise?

http://en.wikipedia....earch_exception

I think you will find that is for a "Port of Entry" not any airport.  And that is to determine if the person is legally entering the USA, not for a drug search.  The drug charges if any would be a state charge.


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