WICHITA, Kansas – North of Wichita on the Interstate I-35, the Kansas Highway Patrol is working a “drug check lane” this week.
DUI Check lanes are legal, according to the courts. Drug check lanes appear to be a legal question mark.
“Is it legal? That may depend on who you ask,” says Dan Monnat, a legal analyst and Civil Rights expert in Wichita. “The suspicion (less) stop of a vehicle at a government roadblock is a seizure, subject to the reasonableness requirements of the 4th amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Monnat says, ordinarily, to be reasonable, a search must be justified by some particular suspicion equivalent to probable cause. That means cops have to be careful how they pull someone over.
KSN wanted to see the tactics employed to look for drug runners in the drug check lanes. KSN employees drove past the “drug check lane” signs, and then drove past officers on the side of the road. Officers followed, and ran the license plate of our unmarked car. But, they did not pull us over.
We asked the Kansas Highway Patrol if they follow all cars that drive by the “drug check lane” officers.
“We are looking for routine traffic stops,” says Gary Warner with the Kansas Highway Patrol. “There’s a variety of opinions whether it’s a grey area or not. It’s been successful not only in Kansas, but in other states. So there hasn’t been a big problem on our end that we are aware of.”
Still, some attorneys wonder where the line is drawn, given the courts have ruled in a negative way on drug check lanes.
“Of course any officer may choose to stop anyone for a petty traffic violation,” explains Monnat. “Failing to signal a lane change? Weaving within a lane. However, no law enforcement officer has a constitutional privilege to manufacture a traffic violation that did not occur. Such a stop would be an unreasonable seizure violating the 4th amendment to the United States Constitution.”
KSNW TV – by Craig Andres