Phony checkpoints to ferret out drug dealers and users are permissible even though real drug checkpoints are unconstitutional, a Colorado appeals court ruled yesterday, says the Denver Post. The crucial issue is whether there is reasonable suspicion of a crime.
In the case at hand, officers posted signs on a road warning that a drug checkpoint lay ahead, and hid nearby. They watched to see if anyone suddenly turned around or appeared to toss drugs or drug paraphernalia out a window. They pulled a man over when they saw what turned out to be a marijuana pipe tossed from the car. He appealed his conviction, claiming that fictitious checkpoints violate protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Sandra Rothenberg wrote that drug checkpoints where vehicles are stopped without reasonable suspicion constitute illegal police conduct. But she said it is constitutional for police to create a ruse that causes defendants to abandon property that, when found, gives investigators the legal right -“reasonable suspicion” – to stop a vehicle.
Dolores County, Co., Sheriff Jerry Martin, president of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, hailed the decision. Martin said he will probably start using them again. “We didn’t dream it would be that effective. I’m telling you, they tossed stuff out that you couldn’t believe,” he said.
The defendant’s attorney vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.