We sued the federal government in 2020 for unconstitutional border patrol checkpoints in northern New England. In 2023, Border Patrol agreed to stop operating a problematic checkpoint until January 1, 2025.

On August 11, 2020, the ACLUs of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont challenged the use of unconstitutional border patrol checkpoints in northern New England. Border Patrol illegally established checkpoints to stop people traveling within the United States – not across its border. These checkpoints were a ruse for general crime control, such as the search and seizure of drugs. Border Patrol is tasked with border enforcement and has no business policing people in northern New England.

Case background:

In August 2017, Border Patrol agents worked with the Woodstock Police Department and stopped every single vehicle traveling southbound on I-93 in Woodstock, New Hampshire. They used drug-sniffing dogs to inspect all vehicles, and detained hundreds – if not thousands – of people lawfully traveling in northern New England without any suspicion that those people had committed a crime. The checkpoint resulted in 33 lawful U.S. residents being arrested or summonsed for state drug-related offenses. No individuals were summonsed or charged with unlawfully crossing the United States-Canada border.

Lawsuit Against Customs and Border Patrol:

In a federal lawsuit, three ACLU affiliates argued these blanket checkpoints constituted unreasonable searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment. It is beyond the scope of Border Patrol’s legal authority to use its forces for general crime control.

In our lawsuit, we asked the court to prohibit Border Patrol from conducting these illegal searches and seizures at their checkpoints.

In November 2020, the government filed a motion to dismiss our claims, but the motion was denied by the court in April 2021. The government attempted to dismiss our lawsuit again in March 2022, claiming that our clients couldn’t pursue their claims because they didn’t travel through the checkpoint area often enough. The court rejected these arguments and allowed our case to continue.

Legal Victory:

In May 2023, Border Patrol agreed to stop operating the Woodstock checkpoint until January 1, 2025. We, along with our colleagues in New Hampshire and Vermont, are ready to intervene again if Border Patrol resumes these unconstitutional activities in our communities.


Gilles R. Bissonnette, SangYeob Kim, Henry R. Klementowicz, Zachary L. Heiden, Carol Garvan, Lia Ernst, Harrison Stark, Scott H. Harris, Steven Dutton, Jeremy Walker, Albert E. Scherr, Mark Sisti

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

McLane Middleton

Date filed

August 11, 2020


U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire



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