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Airport Checkpoint & Border Crossing Crimes

Traveling through airports and crossing international borders poses special legal concerns. Borders and airports are heavily policed by various local and federal police agencies including: US Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security and TSA. The movement of passengers and freight at airports and borders is subject to numerous legalities which may include a random search of any person, vehicle or luggage. Should a search reveal possession of illegal goods (drugs, stolen property) or any prohibited item (weapon within carry-on luggage), criminal charges are likely to be pursued that can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending upon the seriousness.

In Michigan, the following locations serve a high volume of traffic coming into the Michigan from Canada as well as other countries and states:

  • Metropolitan Airport (Romulus)
  • Blue Water Bridge (Port Huron)
  • Detroit Windsor Tunnel (Detroit)
  • Ambassador Bridge (Detroit)

There is also ferry service into Canada from Michigan at various locations in St. Clair County which include Algonac and Marine City.

Searches at Borders and Airports Do Not Require Probable Cause

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution which protects individuals from unreasonable government intrusions and searches, does not apply to border searches. Border searches in the United States are allowed without a warrant and without probable cause. Under federal laws, designated federal agents are empowered to conduct searches and seizures within 100 miles of a border without a warrant and without probable cause.

Checkpoint/TSA Violations at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

Metropolitan Airport, located in Romulus, Michigan, is an international airport with one of the largest airline hubs in the country for passenger and commercial traffic.

The TSA has strict regulations regarding items that are prohibited in designated areas of an airport. The list of prohibited items includes weapons and other items that may be considered dangerous. Civil and/or criminal penalties may apply to any individual in possession of prohibited items in a restricted area without prior approval from appropriate authorities. A person that is caught with a prohibited item at an airport, such as a gun or knife, may face one or more of the following legal situations:

  • TSA Notice of Violation for civil penalties (fine)
  • TSA referral for State or Federal criminal charges
  • A misdemeanor checkpoint violation (34th District Court)
  • Interview by TSA agent to determine future travel risk
  • All of the above

TSA civil monetary penalties can range between $250.00 (possession of chlorine) to $11,000.00 (possession of explosives). The TSA will also consider whether there are aggravating or mitigating factors, such as: degree of the security risk created by the violation, whether the violation was inadvertent or deliberate, violation history of the offender, attitude of violator and level of concealment.

The criminal aspect of the case will be heard at the 34th District Court in City of Romulus, Michigan. For misdemeanor checkpoint violations, we have a perfect track record getting the matter DISMISSED at the 34th District Court, located 11131 Wayne Road, Romulus, Michigan. The court will also allow us to appear on behalf of our clients that do not live near Metro Airport or are non-residents from other states or countries.

More serious crimes constituting a felony will require appearances in court. Depending upon the circumstances, a felony matter may be pursued in the state or federal court system.

International Border Crossing Crimes

Immigration and customs agents are responsible for the enforcement of laws relating the movement of people, vehicles and property coming into the United States at airports and border crossings. The need for customs and immigrations regulations and enforcement is especially important in places like Michigan which shares an international border with Canada.

The means to travel from Canada into the United States chiefly consists of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, Ambassador Bridge and Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Another bridge is under construction in Detroit to handle the high volume of Detroit-Windsor vehicular traffic. It is slated to be named the Gordie Howe International Bridge and is expected to be completed in 2024.

Using an international border crossing means that you can be searched without any probable cause and ignorance of the law is no defense if you are found to have illegal goods in your possession. Getting charged at a border can occur based upon an active investigation or a routine search by Homeland Security, ATF agents, US Customs agents or DEA agents. Drug crimes and firearm crimes are some of the most common offenses that we see charged at border crossings. Even those possessing prescription medications which are not in the proper labeled containers can face serious drug possession charges. Criminal activity occurring at an international border has the potential to be charged as a federal crime. Offenses constituting misdemeanors or felonies charged under State of Michigan laws, will be pursued at the 36th District Court in Detroit or the 72nd District Court in Port Huron, depending upon the location of the border crossing violation.

Getting Hit with a DUI Upon Re-entering US from Canada

The drinking age in Canada is 18-19 years old, depending upon the province. In Windsor, the drinking age is presently 19 years old. The lower drinking age in Canada attracts youthful Michigan residents that are subject to a legal drinking age of 21. Upon returning into the United States, the laws of Michigan apply and the operator of a vehicle may be charged with drunk driving or zero tolerance if the border police determine that the person is over the legal limit or detect intoxication or impairment.

Convictions Can Jeopardize Travel Rights, Citizenship and Deportation

The classification of the crime is important to determine whether it will have an effect on one’s international travel rights, citizenship and deportation. In the United States, a conviction of a crime which is a felony or involves moral turpitude can result in deportation and denial of citizenship. Upon conviction of most criminal offenses in the United States (including a drunk driving or retail fraud) a person may become “criminally inadmissible” to enter Canada.

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CALL: Metro Detroit: 586-412-5555 or Toll Free: 844-Got-Abdo

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