Huh. I didn’t even know this was still being done:
On Tuesday August 23, 2016 the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that police officers and law enforcement cannot stop and search out-of-state individuals based on where they live or what state license plate they have. The judges, in Denver, Colorado, voted two-to-one based on the case of Colorado resident Peter Vasquez.
Vasquez was pulled over by Kansas police who decided to search his vehicle. He had been driving alone during the night on Interstate 70, and the cops used his Colorado license plate to justify them searching through his car. The cops also justified their search by saying that the state of Colorado is a “drug source” where marijuana can be legally purchased.
The justices on the Tenth Circuit rejected these justifications because they are essentially another way for people to be discriminated against. Except for this time, instead of using a person’s gender, sexual orientation, or race, you are doing it based on the state where they live. Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero wrote in his opinion that: “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.”
This ruling by the court means that Vasquez’s civil case can be reinstated. He was seeking damages from the two police officers for crossing the boundaries set by the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is of course famous for its protections against unreasonable searches.
Vasquez, who turned 37 years old this year, feels vindicated by this decision because it backs up his belief that “police officers shouldn’t be able to do whatever they want” just because they have a badge or a job that yields significant power.
The lone dissenter on the court was from Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich who believed the officer’s reasons for pulling the man over represented a “close call” that was well within the legal limits for this type of action. He claimed that reasonable officers may have found Vasquez’s travel plans to be suspect which would then make the search of his car appropriate.
Of course the two officers also found the ruling to be unfair. A spokesperson for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt confirmed that he is going to ask the entire appeals court to look over and review this decision.
Defense attorney Seth Okin commented, “This decision reaffirms the need for people to be aware of their rights and the protections that our Constitution provides. Police officers have limits on the use of their authority and it is a welcome sight to see the court remind them of that.”
This decision applies to the states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming and will hopefully set a precedent for other states to follow. A precedent that does not condone a “shake-down” style of justice that leaves innocent people feeling taken advantage of.