A judge dismissed trespassing charges Friday against a group of illegal immigrants arrested by two small-town police chiefs who said they were frustrated by lax federal enforcement.
Judge L. Phillips Runyon III agreed with defense lawyers that the police chiefs in New Ipswich and Hudson had violated the Constitution by trying to enforce federal laws.
Law enforcement officers from around the country praised the police chiefs for their novel approach to domestic security.
The immigrants, most of whom were from Mexico, were cited with trespassing after being stopped this spring on traffic violations and then admitting they were in the United States illegally, police said.
The trespassing law defines guilt as knowingly entering or staying where they are not licensed or privileged to be. The citation -- akin to a parking ticket -- carries a fine and no jail time upon conviction. The immigrants had pleaded not guilty.
Some of the eight still face motor vehicle charges.
Randall Drew, a lawyer for three of the eight defendants, said his clients were ready "to get out of the limelight."
"We believe that we were in the right and that our clients have been vindicated," Drew said.
Hudson Chief Richard Gendron and New Ipswich Chief Garrett Chamberlain said they were disappointed but would respect the ruling.
"I feel, given the situation, I did what I had to do to protect the citizens of my community," Chamberlain said.
Chamberlain said he was frustrated that federal authorities didn't pursue more illegal immigrants. "It's unfortunate that the federal government has allowed our immigration situation to get to this point," he said.