Federal Court: Out-of-State License Plates Don’t Justify Police Stop and Search
In a landmark decision the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that law enforcement officials can’t stop and search vehicles simply for having an out-of-state license plate from a state where cannabis is legal, such as Colorado.
The court reinstated a lawsuit filed by a Colorado motorist (Peter Vasquez) who was pulled over by two officers while driving through Kansas, heading to Maryland. The officers, Richard Jimerson and Dax Lewis, stopped Vasquez because they couldn’t read his temporary tag that was taped to the inside of the car’s rear window. The officers contended they were justified in searching the vehicle because the motorists was a citizen of Colorado – a state where cannabis is legal – and he was driving on I-70, a “known drug corridor”. The officers, who found nothing illegal in their search, also said that the motorist seemed nervous.
According to the court, the officers’ search was illegal and unjustified, saying it’s “wholly improper” to assume someone is committing a crime because of the state they’re from.
“Accordingly, 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,” the court ruled.