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.