Court Battles

Drivers sue Kansas Highway Patrol for targeting out-of-state vehicles

Drivers are suing the Kansas Highway Patrol in federal court, alleging that they target out-of-state vehicles for traffic stops, according to an amended lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit, which has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), alleges that 93 percent of the Kansas Highway Patrol’s traffic stops in 2017 involved vehicles with out-of-state licenses. The plaintiffs argue that the patrol is infringing on the constitutional protection from illegal searches and seizures, according to the lawsuit obtained by The Hill. 

Two Oklahoma brothers originally filed a complaint in December but received legal backing with the ACLU and a Kansas City law firm, Spencer Fane LLP. Joshua Bosire, a black man from Wichita, filed the federal case, which seeks to achieve class-action status. 

The ACLU and the law firm say in the suit that statistics show Kansas Highway Patrol targets out-of-state drivers, including several on Interstate 70 connecting Kansas to Colorado, which has legalized marijuana. Out-of-state drivers made up 96 percent of all the patrol’s reported civil forfeitures from 2018 to 2019, with two-thirds of those involving drivers of color or those carrying passengers of color in their vehicles.

The complaint also alleged that troopers use the “Kansas Two Step” to gain access to the vehicle, a method mentioned in the patrol’s training materials. 

After giving a ticket and a warning, the trooper steps away, turns back and then asks the driver if they will answer additional questions. The trooper would ask if the person is transporting anything illegal and ask to search the vehicle, and if the driver denies entry, they can be detained for a canine drug search.

Bosire, who visits his 4-year-old daughter who lives in Colorado, was detained after a return trip when he was using a rental car with a Missouri plate when traveling 6 mph over the speed limit. He was detained for 36 minutes before a canine arrived to inspect the car and found no drugs. 

Elontah Blaine Shaw and Samuel Shaw, Native American brothers from Oklahoma City, were traveling through Kansas to visit family when they were stopped for traveling 16 miles over the speed limit. They were detained in December 2017 for a canine search of their vehicle, in which no drugs were found.

Lauren Bonds, the legal director for the ACLU of Kansas, said in a release obtained by  The Associated Press that beyond the canine searches, one of the drivers experienced a personal pat down while along 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.”

Bonds told The Hill that the organization had heard “so many complaints about this practice” that she said was “widespread.

“We didn’t think there would be any way to stop it” besides going forward with a lawsuit, she said.

Tags American Civil Liberties Union federal lawsuit Kansas Marijuana Search and seizure

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