Needless to say (I hope), don’t just drive through them, don’t do anything crazy, and for God’s sake, don’t turn into a mindless demon and charge through a hail of gunfire in a hopeless attempt to kill an armed police officer who has the drop on you. But as Boing Boing reminds us today, you are not required to answer questions or consent to a search at these checkpoints. Just politely but firmly say no, and if possible, suck down some helium before responding and get it on video.
That’s what Robert Trudell does.
These are internal checkpoints we’re talking about here, and unfortunately TSA checkpoints don’t count. If you are crossing the border or passing through a TSA “security zone,” they are allowed to stop you and search you and your stuff without a warrant or probable cause. (More complete info from Flex Your Rights and the ACLU.) They probably need at least a good reason to rummage through a laptop or cell phone, so have a passcode set and don’t tell them what it is. But generally speaking, the Fourth Amendment is weak at the border or in the mind of a TSA agent.
Not content with that, though, DHS agents (and police) also set up internal checkpoints far from the border (and also interpret the “border” as being 100 miles wide—seriously). There, they can stop you briefly (think DUI checkpoint), but cannot search you or your car or your stuff without probable cause or consent. And you aren’t required to consent, even though they will often imply or say otherwise (as I think they are allowed to do).
But if you don’t consent, or don’t answer their questions, won’t they just search you anyway? Well, often the answer is no, as Trudell and others have been demonstrating by recording the interaction and posting it on YouTube. And if at all possible, please do it the way Trudell does:
Trudell is the clown prince of checkpoint refusers. He wears funny wigs, he sings, he refuses to talk, he sucks on helium balloons before talking, and once, he got spectacularly roughed up, all while being recorded by an astonishing array of cameras in his car.
Well, you do have to be willing to be roughed up, potentially, but such is the cost of freedom. That, and whatever helium balloons cost these days, I don’t know.