Can you make a U-TURN before the border checkpoint? Reasonable suspicion to pull a vehicle over?

In US v. Montero-Camargo, the Ninth Circuit held that U-turn of defendants’ vehicles shortly before reaching border checkpoint, combined with other factors, including fact that vehicle subsequently stopped on side of a highway in an isolated area, provided reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop.

The district court based its determination that reasonable suspicion existed on a series of factors:
1) the U-turn made before the checkpoint by the two cars;
2) the driving in tandem and the Mexicali license plates;
3) the area at which the U-turn occurred included a well-known drop-off point for smugglers;
4) the Hispanic appearance of the three defendants; and
5) Renteria-Wolff’s picking up the newspaper after glancing back at the patrol cars.

Although the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that reasonable suspicion did exist to justify an investigatory stop, the Ninth Circuit concluded that some of the factors on which the district court relied were not relevant or appropriate to the reasonable suspicion analysis.

Ninth Circuit held that Hispanic appearance, for example, was “of such little probative value that it may not be considered as a relevant factor where particularized or individualized suspicion is required.” The lower court also should not have considered the officers’ interpretation that the passenger tried to hide by picking up a newspaper when she saw his approach because there was not an “obvious attempt to evade.”

Full Opinion here: U.S. v. Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d 1122,

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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