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Authorities: Majority of arrests at checkpoint were drug related



Monitor staff
Friday, September 01, 2017

Thirty-two U.S. citizens were arrested by Woodstock police at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection last weekend, though only two were taken into custody, chief Ryan Oleson announced Friday.

The checkpoint, carried out over three days on the southbound side of Interstate 93 in Woodstock, was set up by the federal border agency primarily to search for immigration violations, an earlier news release from the federal agency stated. Twenty-five undocumented immigrants were picked up in total and passed on to the Manchester Immigration and Customs Enforcement field offices in Manchester after being processed, an agency spokeswoman said.

But during the stop, agents also used dogs to detect human trafficking and narcotics, and those citizens found with drugs were handed over to Woodstock police, an agency spokeswoman said.

The majority of those arrested – 18 total – were charged with possession of drugs in a motor vehicle, according to a news release from Woodstock police. No arrests were made for human trafficking.

Among the arrested was an 18-year-old from Concord, Jason Labrie, who faced nine charges including reckless operation, disobeying an officer, possession of drugs and endangering the welfare of a child.

Oleson was not available Friday afternoon for follow-up questions on the nature of Labrie’s charges.

Speaking Thursday, he said that Labrie was one of the two people who had been taken into custody and charged with felonies. He did not give out the other person’s identity at the time.

Both Labrie and the second person in custody were released on personal recognizance, Oleson said Thursday; the two will appear in Grafton County Superior Court at a later date. Others were allowed to drive off with a summons to appear before the Second Circuit Court, District Division in Plymouth.

The arrestees came from around New England. Fifteen hailed from Massachusetts, with an additional eight from New Hampshire. Five more were from Vermont, two from Rhode Island and one from Maine, the release said.

One person arrested was a juvenile whose identity and charges were withheld.

The checkpoint, conducted 90 miles from the Canadian border and occurring on the same weekend as a New Hampshire Cannabis Freedom Festival to the north in Lancaster, quickly attracted attention.

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, called the use of the checkpoint a violation of Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure.

“The ACLU believes that these checkpoints amount to dragnet, suspicionless stops that cannot be reconciled with Fourth Amendment protections,” Bissonette said in an earlier statement. “I would be very interested in knowing why CPB chose this location, and why the search was at the maximum distance from the border permitted.”

But Stephanie Malin, New England Public Affairs Officer for the Border Patrol, said that the agency was acting under clear authority. Federal law allows for Border Patrol to set up immigration checkpoints within 100 “air miles” of the U.S. border, an authority that was upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1976 decision of U.S. v. Martinze Fuerte.

And the stops on I-93 are not new, Oleson said. Woodstock Police have assisted Border Patrol in annual stops at that location since the 1980s, he said in Friday’s press release. Last weekend’s activity is the first time the checkpoint has been activated since 2012, when it was discontinued for funding concerns.

“It is a very unobtrusive interaction for those here legally and those without illegal drugs,” Oleson said in the release.