New Mexico’s heightened search-and-seizure protections don’t apply at Mexican border

The New Mexico Constitution provides greater protection to citizens than the Fourth Amendment when it comes to searches and seizures. For example, in State v. Cardenas-Alvarez, the New Mexico Supreme Court held that at interior border control checkpoints (such as those found in southern New Mexico), an official must have reasonable suspicion to detain a motorist once basic questions about citizenship have been answered.

The Supreme Court recently held, however, in State v. Aide Zamora Sanchez, that the New Mexico Constitution does not provide any greater protection than the Fourth Amendment at the international border with Mexico. Thus, evidence seized under the federal border search doctrine may be used in criminal prosecutions in New Mexico state courts.

Justice Chavez’s opinion distinguished the Court’s earlier decision in Cardenas-Alvarez, noting that interior border checkpoints require all motorists to stop, whether or not they’ve been outside the country, and thus there needs to be some protection for New Mexicoans who are lawfully going about their business on New Mexico’s highways.

By contrast, “traffic passing through international border checkpoints do not contain domestic travelers who have heightened expectations of privacy that are idiosyncratic to the state in which they are traveling; all international travleers have a lessened expectation of privacy because they present themselves at the border for entry into the United States.”

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