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Vermont Supreme Court Deals Blow to Border Agents' Roving Patrols

September 26, 2021 (1 min read)

Derek Brouwer, Vermont Seven Days, Sept. 24, 2021

"Border patrol officers can search Vermonters' cars without a warrant under their special federal authority to conduct "roving" patrols within 100 miles of the U.S. border.  But, as of Friday, evidence they collect during the controversial searches can no longer be used to prosecute crimes in state courts, a narrow majority of the Vermont Supreme Court ruled.  Civil liberties advocates, as well as the Vermont Attorney General's Office, celebrated the 3-2 decision as a significant check on U.S. Customs and Border Patrol's broad enforcement authority throughout most of Vermont.  "Border Patrol is a notorious rogue agency with no respect for human rights or the rule of law," said ACLU of Vermont staff attorney Jay Diaz , whose organization represented the appellants.  "The strong privacy and dignity protections embedded in our state constitution are a source of state pride and the Court’s decision reaffirms and expands those rights."

Vermont v. Walker-Brazie

"In this interlocutory appeal, we must decide whether evidence seized by federal Border Patrol agents during a roving patrol—pursuant to their authority to conduct warrantless searches under 8 U.S.C. § 1357—is admissible in a state criminal proceeding when that 2 search does not comply with Article 11 of the Vermont Constitution.  Defendants Phillip Walker-Brazie and Brandi-Lena Butterfield argue that because the overwhelming purpose of Vermont’s exclusionary rule is to protect individual liberty, we should apply the exclusionary rule and suppress the evidence pursuant to Article 11. We agree, and hold that such evidence is inadmissible in Vermont criminal proceedings."