It has been some time now since I have shared thoughts or experiences here on the Free Keene blog as I have been dealing with personal issues surrounding the re-organization of my life after leaving the law enforcement profession.
I have been a mere mortal for about a year and two months now and throughout that time I have often found myself reflecting on things that I miss about my former career.
Whenever I start feeling a sense of loss or regret I remind myself of the countless victimless laws I used to enforce (and the subsequent victims I created).
Remember: when the state enforces a victimless law, it creates a victim.
I recently found myself crossing from Quebec, Canada into Vermont… and I decided to not answer any of the questions that the US Customs and Border Protection agents grilled me on. Here’s both what happened to me and some information to arm yourself with when dealing with the very dangerous federal government.
After waiting in a line of traffic for about thirty minutes I drove up to the booth where a rather grouchy agent was waiting. I handed him my drivers license, the vehicle’s registration, and my United States Passport. The agent quickly asked me how long I had been in Canada. I responded “I assert my right to remain silent and request a lawyer.”
“You’re kidding me” the agent responded.
“No, I’m not” I replied.
I was quickly ordered to report to park alongside the CBP station, exit the vehicle, and go inside the building. The time was 9:45PM.
Once parked, I went inside. An officer approached me and began asking me questions about my trip to Canada. I replied that I had already asserted my right to remain silent (you must speak to assert your right to remain silent) and that I had provided proof of my nationality.
The agent walked off.
About five minutes later I was approached by the supervisor who informed me that I was required to answer his questions. I replied that I did not have to answer any of his questions, that he knew I didn’t have to, and that I wanted an attorney. He replied that I had no right to a lawyer and that I would have to remain at the border until I answered his questions.
The supervisor printed out various federal regulations and handed them to me and told me that these things required that I answer his questions. He handed me two forms to fill out.
Filling out federal government forms and talking to federal agents is a very dangerous thing to do. Frequently, when the feds are unable to make a real criminal case against someone, they will charge them with lying to a federal agent. It *is* a federal crime and you can avoid getting yourself in trouble over a nervous slip of the tongue up if you simply refuse to talk. I reminded the supervisor of this and told him that to protect myself I was simply not going to answer his questions or fill out his forms. He reiterated that I would be going no where until I do. I told him I wanted to be brought to court. He told me I would not be and that I was not being detained. Right.
When you cross the border you are going through two different processes: immigration and customs. Providing a valid passport satisfies the requirements that you prove your nationality. Once you prove your nationality as a United States (ugh) “citizen” you cannot be denied entry to your home country. This is codified in a United Nations international agreement.
I am no lawyer… so don’t take this as legal advice, but, according to the governments own warped view of the Constitution you have absolutely no right to a lawyer at the border for immigration related matters (an opinion which I and many others assert is completely unconstitutional). You do, however, have a presently un-infringed right to a lawyer for customs related matters. You will be led to believe otherwise.
So, since I had proven my status as an American citizen, I could not be denied entry into the United States interior. Once you provide a passport you have proven your nationality. All of the questions you are asked regarding your activities when travelling abroad are designed to incriminate you for something you may have done that violates United States law. There are many things you can do in a foreign country that are legal there but illegal in the United States. Travelling to Cuba, for example, or purchasing Cuban cigars in Canada can get you prosecuted in the United States.
I was being denied entry at this point because I was refusing to fill out a customs form.
A little law that the feds at the border would rather you not know is 5 USC 555, specificlly subsection (b):
(b) A person compelled to appear in person before an agency or representative thereof is entitled to be accompanied, represented, and advised by counsel or, if permitted by the agency, by other qualified representative. A party is entitled to appear in person or by or with counsel or other duly qualified representative in an agency proceeding. So far as the orderly conduct of public business permits, an interested person may appear before an agency or its responsible employees for the presentation, adjustment, or determination of an issue, request, or controversy in a proceeding, whether interlocutory, summary, or otherwise, or in connection with an agency function. With due regard for the convenience and necessity of the parties or their representatives and within a reasonable time, each agency shall proceed to conclude a matter presented to it. This subsection does not grant or deny a person who is not a lawyer the right to appear for or represent others before an agency or in an agency proceeding.
I made it clear to the agents that I would not be filling out the customs form until I spoke with a lawyer. My person was invasevely searched, my car x-rayed, and I was detained until 12:35AM…… but I never filled out a customs declaration or answered any of their questions.
“I want a lawyer” should be the first and only thing you say when dealing with people who have the ability to twist your words and place your very freedom in significant jeopardy. Be a broken record and don’t be afraid to stand up for your rights.