By Dan Viets, J.D., SMCR Board Chair
Marijuana prohibition has led to many violations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties. One of the most egregious violations is the use of “drug roadblocks”.
On the evening of Friday, November 16, 2012 at the 71.4 mile marker on Interstate 70, near the junction with Missouri Highway 65, the Marshall/Sedalia exits, the Missouri State Highway Patrol held another of its “ruse drug roadblocks”. Several emergency flares were displayed on both sides of the eastbound lanes of the highway. Among them were temporary orange signs stating “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” and “Drug Dog on Duty”.
In fact, there was no drug checkpoint ahead. This tactic has been allowed by our Courts, despite the fact that it involves lying to the public and creating a dangerous traffic hazard. In fact, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that a true drug roadblock violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The actual roadblock is never on the highway, as the signs state, but rather at the next exit.
There is always an inviting exit shortly after the drug roadblock signs appear. The police hope that people who want to avoid the roadblock will take that exit. Those who do take that exit are invariably observed to commit some minor traffic offense, which gives the police an excuse to stop their vehicle and interrogate the occupants and usually, one way or another, search that vehicle.
The best course of action when one encounters this deceptive exercise in police-state law enforcement is to just keep driving. As long as one does not take the next exit, one will never see the drug roadblock.
However, every year, dozens of unwary motorists are ensnared by this deceptive practice. Once you have taken that exit, no matter what excuse you had for taking that exit, you will be targeted for further investigation.
When approaching such operations, one needs to be meticulous about obeying all traffic laws. Do not speed; do not fail to signal a turn or lane change; make certain all of the lights on your motor vehicle are working properly at all times; and do not follow too closely. Following too closely is probably the single most often-cited excuse for stopping motor vehicles on Missouri highways.
Most importantly, never litter. Police officers who would never bother to stop a driver for littering will absolutely pursue a vehicle if anything is thrown out of that vehicle in the vicinity of a “drug roadblock”.
The police seem to believe that all illegal drugs are moving east. Therefore, one’s chances of being stopped and questioned and searched are far greater when your motor vehicle is heading east than when it is heading west.
As always, one should say as little as possible to law enforcement officers. The driver of a motor vehicle is obligated to display his or her driver’s license. Passengers are not required to do so. If a police officer tries to engage you in a conversation about where you are headed or where you have been, you should politely decline to discuss that. You have an absolute Constitutional right to remain silent at all times. If you fail to do so, anything you say, and some things you will swear you did not say, will be used against you.