A man from Florida has been sentenced to eight months in prison after he calmly refused to answer questions at an internal border patrol checkpoint, and drove away.
The incident, which occurred in October last year, was captured on video, from both CCTV, and a dashcam within Michael Sophin’s car.
The footage shows Mr Sophin approaching a checkpoint approximately 20 miles from the border of Mexico on I-10 near Sierra Blanca, Texas. When the Border Patrol Agent asked Sophin if he is an American citizen, he replied with a dry comment.
“You know, I was going to tell you that I wasn’t going to take any questions today, and then I realized that… if Obama is letting everybody in the country, what difference does it make?” Sophin said.
The agent wasn’t playing games and replied that it “makes all the difference.”
At that point, Sophin refused to cooperate any further, calmly stating “I don’t want to answer any questions, O.K.? Thanks. Have a good night” as he drove away, at regular speed, from the checkpoint.
The agent is heard yelling “Hey, you’re not free to go!” as Sophin drives away.
Agents drove after Sophin and eventually flagged him down and ordered him out of his vehicle at gunpoint.
Sophin was arrested and taken back to the checkpoint, where his vehicle was searched without a warrant or probable cause.
In addition to Sophin’s legally owned firearms, and shooting accessories, the agents found what they described as “anti-government propaganda”. The two items given this description were a copy of The New American Magazine, a freedom and Constitution oriented publication owned by The John Birch Society, and a copy of a book called “Freedom”, written by journalist and activist Adam Kokesh.
Sophin was thrown in jail in El Paso for a whole 18 days before he was released on bond.
He was first charged with “High speed flight from immigration checkpoint,” a felony which carries a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. However, this charge was dropped as it became clear that Sophin never broke the speed limit, only agents chasing him were guilty of that.
So, with one charge dismissed, the state tried a fresh approach, by charging Sophin with “Assault on a Federal Agent.”
Sophin’s firearms were also confiscated by the BATF, under the agency’s asset forfeiture program.
Eventually, when the case came to trial, Sophin was sentenced to eight months in federal prison with credit for time served. He is currently out on bond pending appeal.
During the trial, a juror explained why the decision was made to convict Sophin, despite the clear evidence that no crime was committed. “He should have to answer questions just like the rest of us,” the juror said. In other words, because he decided to stand up for his Constitutional rights, Sophin had to be made an example of.
The website Photography is Not A Crime contacted both The New American and Adam Kokesh to get their thoughts on the case and the description of their literature by the state as “anti-government propaganda” – here’s what they had to say.
The New American
“Classifying ‘The New American’ magazine as anti-government propaganda demonstrates either ignorance or complicity. ‘The New American’ is published by American Opinion Publishing Inc., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of The John Birch Society.
The mission of The John Birch Society is ‘To bring about less government, more responsibility, and — with God’s help — a better world by providing leadership, education, and organized volunteer action in accordance with moral and Constitutional principles‘…
…Let’s remember that many agencies in the federal government, especially the Department of Homeland Security, and many left-wing advocates, especially the Southern Poverty Law Center, have taken a dangerous tact of classifying law-abiding constitutional advocates (many returning military veterans) as potential domestic terrorists. See ‘Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970-2008′ (2012), ‘Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment’ (2009), and ‘MIAC Strategic Report: The Modern Militia Movement’ (2009) for further details. If an agency of the federal government is claiming ‘The New American’ magazine is ‘anti-government propaganda,’ then this demonstrates it continuing down an unconstitutional and un-American path that tramples the freedom of speech.”
Adam Kokesh on Freedom
“FREEDOM! is only anti-government propaganda if government is anti-freedom, which it is. This is why my book is also banned in US prisons. By banning my book, government has again revealed itself to be intellectually and morally bankrupt, nothing more than an elaborate scheme to steal for the super-rich. Freedom is a good idea, and good ideas don’t require force. Government, on the other hand, uses force to prevent the free flow of ideas because good ideas are a threat to all who profit from bad ideas. Fortunately, the more that agents of government declare themselves so clearly anti-freedom, the more people will hear the message.”
The case serves as a reminder of how the rights of everyday Americans are being violated en mass every day.
Using the excuse of attempting to apprehend illegal immigrants, Border Patrol agents have set up a network of internal checkpoints inside the United States.
Despite what a Supreme Court ruling says, since the checkpoints are situated far away from the Mexican border, they are clearly a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The ACLU has dubbed the area in which the checkpoints have been positioned as the “Constitution-free Zone,” noting that 2 out of 3 Americans live within this buffer zone – around 190 million people in total.
There is no law that says refusing to comply with Border agents and/or police at such checkpoints gives probable cause to search an individual’s vehicle. It certainly does not provide probable cause for agents to force their way into vehicles, particularly if the occupants are not being aggressive or confrontational in any way.
This is just the latest in a series of confrontations caught on video showing Americans standing up to the checkpoints.
In this video, Border Patrol agents in California forcefully pull a man out of his car and drive off with his distressed wife and 4-year-old son simply because he refused to tell them where he was driving to.
Being routinely stopped at a permanent checkpoint close to 200 miles away from the border by Homeland Security agents, another freedom loving American decided enough was enough recently and stood up to them on video. The self declared “free roamer” was laughed at by the agents before being sent on his way.
Last year, a man in Texas was dragged from his vehicle by border patrol agents who smashed through his window after he refused to answer their questions at a checkpoint more than 50 miles away from the Southern border.
(The exchange with the agents begins at around 6 mins into the video)
Steven Anderson provided a sterling example of how to stand up for your rights in such a situation. When Border Patrol agents attempted to detain him for questioning, Anderson refused, citing his right as an American citizen to “go free on my way.”
In another incident in 2012, a truck driver who passed through a checkpoint in Texas, 30 miles from the Mexican border, stood up for his Fourth Amendment rights by refusing to answer questions and eventually driving away.
These videos and hundreds of others like them accentuate the fact that Americans are not required to answer Border agents’ questions (usually starting with “Are you a United States citizen?”). Nor are Americans required to consent to any searches at such checkpoints.
Visit www.checkpointusa.org/blog to learn more about this program. By actively “flexing” their rights, these brave citizens expose the techniques DHS and Border Patrol agents (and police in general) use to trick and intimidate citizens into compliance.