FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 30, 2020
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, [email protected]
OVERLAND PARK, KS - In a sharp challenge to the Kansas Highway Patrol’s practice of targeting motorists with out-of-state plates traveling to and from Colorado, the ACLU of Kansas filed suit Thursday against what it called unconstitutional targeting and routinely employing a training technique known as the “Kansas Two-Step.”
The class-action lawsuit, filed in Kansas Federal Court, seeks injunctive and declaratory relief for three named plaintiffs stopped and illegally detained by the KHP for driving a car with out-of-state plates and visiting Colorado, a state that has legalized marijuana use.
“Drivers with out-of-state plates made up 93 percent of KHP stops in 2017,” the lawsuit said. “Further, out-of-state motorists driving through Kansas on I-70 constituted 96 percent of all of KHP’s civil forfeitures in 2019. Most of those motorists were drivers of color.”
The lawsuit said the KHP has maintained a practice of unlawfully detaining drivers after the initial purpose of the stop had been resolved to question drivers about their travel plans without consent or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. KHP officers often use a maneuver nicknamed in law enforcement circles as the “Kansas Two-Step” to accomplish these illegal detentions.
After issuing a ticket or warning and telling the driver to have a safe trip, the officer turns his or her body, takes two steps toward the patrol car but returns to the driver’s window to ask if the driver would answer a few more questions.
This technique is used to break off an initial traffic detention and attempt to reengage the driver in what would then be considered a consensual encounter. It is taught to all KHP officers and is included in KHP’s training materials.
“KHP troopers will detain drivers based on innocent-travel indicia for this type of non-consensual questioning after the original purpose of the traffic stop has dissipated,” the lawsuit said.
Absent court intervention, the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, Blaine Shaw, Samuel Shaw and Joshua Bosire, fear they will endure continued unlawful detentions simply for traveling to what law enforcement officials consider a “drug-source state,” the lawsuit said.
Lauren Bonds, Legal Director for the ACLU of Kansas, said the detained drivers endured canine unit searches and one endured a personal pat-down on the side of the highway.
“The standard for this kind of invasion of privacy has to be higher than out-of-state plates, a Colorado destination, and minority status,” Bonds said. “This practice is unconstitutional on many levels.”
In 2016, according to the complaint, the Tenth Circuit found in Lewis v. Vasquez that KHP troopers illegally relied on the fact that a driver was traveling from Colorado and other innocuous conduct to support their “reasonable suspicion” that the driver was trafficking drugs.
# # #
About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.