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Kansas State Police is facing multiple lawsuits over spurious traffic stoppages

from the annoyed-by-man-behaved Department

Thanks to drug legalization, there is a new “drug corridor” that Kansas law enforcement is taking advantage of. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012. Since then, state troopers have camped out on I-70 to prevent people from heading to or from a weed-friendly state. It’s strange to call a road that leads to a state with legalized drugs a “drug corridor” (in the sense that this generally refers to the illegal drug trade), but here we are.

And here’s how the Kansas Highway Patrol took advantage of the traffic flowing in and out of the state on I-70.

Ninety-three percent of the Kansas Highway Patrol’s traffic stops in 2017 involved cars with out-of-state plates, according to a lawsuit challenging the practice as a violation of motorists’ constitutional rights.

That lawsuit — originally filed in handwritten form in 2019 — now has the backing of the ACLU. And there are other lawsuits pending, all against law enforcement agencies who have been targeting drivers with out-of-state plates for spurious stops. The stops start innocuously enough, but soon become extensive ad hoc investigations by opportunistic officers, something that often includes the summoning of a drug sniffing dog to do some exploratory sniffing.

Blaine Shaw’s arrest after he was stopped for speeding on Interstate 70 while traveling from Oklahoma to Colorado resulted in a lawsuit on Monday that challenged the constitutionality of the Kansas Highway Patrol’s policy of targeting residents outside the state and other suspicious persons for searches of vehicles through drug sniffing dogs.

Shaw and his brother, members of the Osage Nation and residents of Oklahoma City, were en route to Denver to visit family and friends in December 2017 when they stopped near Hays. KHP Private Doug Schulte reported that he clocked Shaw driving 91 mph in the 75 mph zone. The policeman wrote a note for the offense to conclude the stated purpose of the stop and told the brothers to have a good trip. Schulte started walking away, but performed a maneuver cynically known as a “two-step soldier” and returned to Shaw’s open window.

“Hey Blaine,” his attorney said during the initial discussion of Blaine Shaw’s lawsuit against Schulte, “can I ask you one more question?”

Before going into the details of this and the other cases discussed in this article, let’s discuss the opening paragraph. “Out-of-staters and other suspicious people” is just bad writing. I mean, it looks like a cop wrote it. Data shows that soldiers primarily target out-of-state drivers, something they appear to deem “suspicious.” There is nothing inherently suspicious about another nation’s license plates on a car traveling on an interstate highway. This should be expected rather than considered a reasonable suspicion for a stop.

And officers don’t know whether people are “suspicious” or not until they’ve extended stops using a process so common it has a nickname: the “two-step.” It’s the “oh, one more thing” that Columbo used so well, but he’s being abused by the officers who are unconstitutionally extending stops to go fishing. The Supreme Court outlawed this sort of thing in 2015. Once the “objective” stop has been completed, officers cannot extend the stop unless they have a reasonable suspicion that another criminal activity has occurred. .

Here’s how the I-70 trial works, according to this earlier lawsuit report from Shaw.

The way the “Kansas Two Step” works is this: A soldier stops a vehicle with out-of-state plates under the guise of a minor traffic violation. The policeman issues the driver a ticket or warning for the infraction, then turns and takes a couple of steps away from the vehicle before turning around and asking the driver to agree to answer more questions. When the driver denies carrying anything illegal, the cop asks for permission to search the car. If the driver refuses to consent to a search, the policeman detains the driver for a canine drug search.

Clearly unconstitutional according to Supreme Court precedent. Hence the lawsuits.

Most of that stop was recorded, either from the officers’ cameras or from Blaine Shaw’s phone. The stop was extended for 45 minutes after the policeman gave Shaw his speeding ticket.

The same thing happened to Joshua Bosire, who was pulled over for speeding while driving a rental car with Missouri plates. He was held for 45 minutes while the KHP officer brought in a drug sniffer dog. The dog was not alerted and, after an unconstitutional delay, Bosire was free to leave. A virtually identical stop was imposed on a family driving an RV with temporary tags issued in Colorado. They too were forced to wait until a drug sniffer dog arrived. This also failed to alert. Nearly an hour after the policeman gave the driver a warning, the family was finally free to go.

And this is the sort of thing Kansas state troopers (who love asset forfeiture) think is “reasonably suspicious.”

Schulte’s antenna went up when she noticed the van contained equipment as if the brothers were temporarily living in it as they made a quick trip to Colorado to buy marijuana and deliver it to Oklahoma. Chalmers said it was suspicious to the KHP agent that Shaw was driving his father’s van because traffickers generally did not use their own cars or trucks when transporting drugs due to asset forfeiture laws.

So, never borrow a car, I guess. The whole “living in it” thing is weird, because it’s not like it takes several days to travel from Oklahoma to Colorado. Also, there’s this postscript, which shows that even though Shaw was headed to Colorado to buy weed, he was legally allowed to do exactly that.

KHP required Shaw to report to a nearby law enforcement office so copies of his medical records, Colorado ID, and medical marijuana registration could be made.

If anything seems suspicious, it’s the actions of these soldiers. These are roadside fishing expeditions that show the soldiers aren’t looking for traffic violations or outright criminal suspects, just hoping that stopping enough out-of-state drivers will earn them some money to drug”. This all violates the 2015 Supreme Court decision and everything has happened beyond that point, so it will be difficult for soldiers to claim they are eligible for qualified immunity. That immunity only works if there’s no solid record. In these cases, more than four years prior to these arrests, the nation’s supreme court warned cops that this was no longer permissible.

Filed Under: Kansas, specious stop

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