Court: You Can’t Search a Car Because of the State It Comes From

Court: You Can’t Search a Car Because of the State It Comes From August 24, 2016

In states that border states that have legal marijuana, either recreational or medicinal, the police often focus their attention on cars coming out of those states because it’s more likely they’re transporting pot. But an appeals court just ruled that you can’t do a search merely because of that.


By a 2-1 vote, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said two Kansas Highway Patrol officers violated the constitutional rights of Colorado motorist Peter Vasquez in December 2011 by pulling him over and searching his car after he had been driving alone at night on Interstate 70.

The officers relied heavily on Vasquez’s residency to justify the search, which uncovered nothing illegal, saying Colorado was a known “drug source” where marijuana is legal.

But the court said that would justify searching motorists from the 25 U.S. states that permit marijuana use for medical purposes, and the four states, including Colorado, plus Washington, D.C., where recreational use is allowed.

“It is time to abandon the pretense that state citizenship is a permissible basis upon which to justify the detention and search of out-of-state motorists, and time to stop the practice of detention of motorists for nothing more than an out-of-state license plate,” Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero wrote.

“Absent a demonstrated extraordinary circumstance, the continued use of state residency as a justification for the fact of or continuation of a stop is impermissible,” he added.

The only bad part of this is that one federal judge dissented. On what possible basis? The 4th Amendment is absolutely clear, the police cannot do a search without probable cause. The courts long ago reduced that standard to “reasonable suspicion” for traffic stops, but even by that lower standard it is absolutely ludicrous to claim that the mere fact that a driver is from a particular state rises to that level. Any argument to the contrary is utterly laughable.

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