WICHITA – North of Wichita on Interstate 135, you may see the signs this week.
The signs say Drug Check Lane Ahead and Drug Dog In Use.
Civil rights attorneys call the check lanes fake, and they call them a violation of the 4th amendment. They also say, if you see one, you are not required to stop.
“It’s a ruse,” explains Wichita attorney Dan Monnat. “They’re trying to pull people over, and this is separate from DUI road stops that have been deemed legal by the courts.”
Monnat and other attorneys specializing in civil rights say police can legally do road blocks with DUI checkpoints. But not to search for drug traffic.
They say so-called drug check lanes have been through the courts and Monnat says drug check lanes are a legal gray area at best.
Still, officers with the Kansas Highway Patrol and Sedgwick County have been conducting the drug check lanes this week. When you drive past the signs on the Interstate, there is no roadblock. But, KSN found that when you pull off the interstate at the drug check lane exit, sometimes officers at that location will follow you.
“Of course any citizen can be pulled over by a law enforcement officer for an actual petty traffic offense,” says Monnat. “However, no law enforcement officer has a right to fabricate a traffic offense that did not occur just to justify a seizure or search the officer wants to conduct.”
Lin Dehning, a spokesperson for Sedgwick County, talked about sheriff’s deputies being involved in the operation.
“I can’t comment on the checkpoint being run by the Kansas Highway Patrol,” said Dehning. “But our deputies still need reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle just as they would for any other vehicle stop. Participating in an operation like that does not relieve our deputies of that responsibility/requirement.”
Dan Monnat explains, if you get pulled over in a drug check lane, you do have rights. He says you do not have to consent to a search of your car.
“If you are stopped by an officer, of course, be respectful. If you believe you are being detained without justification you should ask the officer if you are free to leave or if you are being detained,” explains Monnat. “If the officer says you are free to leave, you are free to leave.”
Monnat says his office has received complaints in the past about the drug check lanes.
When asked about specific legality of drug check lanes, Monnat explains those drug check lanes appear to be a violation of the 4th amendment in regards to legal search and seizure.
“If you are not being detained within the search and seizure provisions of the constitution, (then) if the officer asks you to consent to a search of your motor vehicle, you are absolutely free to decline to consent to such a search,” explains Monnat. “What the officer then does is up to the officer and it requires the officer to determine if he has probably cause or reasonable grounds under the constitution to justify a search of your car.”
KSN also asked about the drug dogs in use.
“Officers will use drug dogs to walk around your car to see if the dog smells drugs,” says Monnat. “If the dog gets a hit, then they search your car under probable cause.”
And Monnat says if officers believe there is something illegal in your car, and you decline a search, a search warrant may be required to look inside your car.
“An officer can only search your car if he has probable cause to believe that you are committing a crime and the evidence of the crime is within the car,” says Monnat. “In order to search your car, an officer always has to have probable cause, unless you consent to a search and give up your right to be free from government searches and seizures.”
Monnat says the drug check lane idea has been through the courts, and he points to a case before the U.S. Supreme court called Indianapolis v Edmond from the year 2000.
Supreme Court justices voted 6-3 that drug check lanes are not legal.
“If they say drug check lane ahead, it’s false,” says Monnat. “Because the courts have ruled on this being a violation of the 4th amendment.”
You can read the case of City of Indianapolis v Edmond from the UMKC school of Law in Kansas City, Missouri, here (http://www1.law.umkc.edu/suni/Criminal_Procedure_I/Edmond.htm)
KSN reached out to the Kansas Highway Patrol for comment. The Wichita area spokesman for KHP is not in the office this week. A KHP officer did stop by KSN studios in the afternoon, but was not authorized to talk about the drug check lanes.
KSN TV – By Craig Andres