June 17, 2024
June 17, 2024
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‘Kansas two-step’ highway patrol technique ruled unconstitutional for marijuana vehicle searching

Kansas Highway Patrol Ordered to Cease Controversial “Two-Step” Technique

A recent federal court ruling has mandated the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) to discontinue its contentious “two-step” method, deeming it a violation of individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights. This technique primarily targeted out-of-state drivers, particularly from Colorado and Missouri, where marijuana is legal, in search of the substance in Kansas, where it remains illegal.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil, in the order issued on Friday, emphasized that the patrol’s tactics during traffic stops infringed upon the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, safeguarding individuals from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The “two-step” approach, reportedly instructed to officers by KHP Superintendent Herman Jones, involved officers concluding a routine traffic stop, heading back to their vehicle, and then returning to initiate a separate search for marijuana within the stopped vehicle.

Given the contrasting marijuana laws between Kansas and neighboring states like Colorado and Missouri, officers often succeeded in discovering the illicit substance and pressing charges against the drivers. The court opinion, presented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas (ACLU) and Spencer Fane LLP, highlighted the indiscriminate nature of this practice, stating, “The war is basically a question of numbers: stop enough cars, and you’re bound to discover drugs.”

Legal Battle Against KHP’s Tactics

The plaintiffs, represented by ACLU and Spencer Fane LLP, including Blaine Shaw, Joshua Bosire, Mark Erich, Samuel Shaw, and Shawna Maloney, initiated the legal challenge against KHP’s routine stops and the utilization of the “Two-Step” maneuver in 2020. They testified about feeling exploited and intimidated by KHP troopers during their encounters on federal highway I-70 in Kansas.

Maloney, a Colorado resident, recounted a distressing incident where troopers searched her family’s RV during a cross-country trip in March 2018. Despite finding nothing illegal, the intrusive search left Maloney feeling unsafe while driving through Kansas. The trooper’s actions, including damaging property and subjecting the family to an extended detention, further exacerbated the distress caused by the encounter.

Court’s Decision and ACLU’s Response

Following the court’s ruling to halt KHP’s “Two-Step” technique, Sharon Brett, the Legal Director of ACLU Kansas, condemned the approach as a “cowboy mentality of policing.” She emphasized the significance of the court’s decision in upholding motorists’ constitutional rights and preventing law enforcement misconduct. Brett underscored that the ruling signifies a rejection of the degrading and humiliating practices that some citizens have endured at the hands of law enforcement.

In conclusion, the court’s intervention serves as a pivotal moment in safeguarding individuals’ rights and curbing overzealous law enforcement practices. The ruling underscores the importance of upholding constitutional protections, even in the context of drug enforcement efforts.

‘Kansas two-step’ Highway Patrol Technique Ruled Unconstitutional

Recently, a significant legal development has emerged in the realm of vehicle searches related to marijuana possession. The controversial ‘Kansas two-step’ highway patrol technique has been deemed unconstitutional for such searches. This ruling has widespread implications and has sparked discussions about law enforcement practices and individual rights. Let’s delve deeper into this issue to understand its impact.

The ‘Kansas Two-Step’ Technique: An Overview

The ‘Kansas two-step’ technique refers to a strategy used by law enforcement officers during traffic stops to search vehicles suspected of carrying marijuana. The process involves stopping a vehicle for a minor traffic violation, such as a broken taillight, and then conducting a search based on the officer’s suspicion of drug possession. This technique has been criticized for allowing officers to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Legal Ruling

In a recent court decision, the ‘Kansas two-step’ highway patrol technique was declared unconstitutional for marijuana vehicle searches. The ruling emphasized that the initial traffic stop must be based on reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation, rather than a pretext for a drug search. This decision sets a precedent for future cases involving similar law enforcement practices.

Implications and Debate

The ruling on the ‘Kansas two-step’ technique has sparked debates about the balance between law enforcement powers and individual rights. While the decision serves as a victory for those advocating for stricter adherence to constitutional protections, some law enforcement agencies argue that such limitations hinder their ability to combat illegal drug trafficking effectively.

Benefits and Practical Tips

As a result of this ruling, individuals may have more protections against unwarranted vehicle searches based on flimsy justifications. It is essential for drivers to be aware of their rights during traffic stops and to understand the circumstances under which a search can be conducted legally.

Case Studies

Case Study Ruling
State v. Smith ‘Kansas two-step’ technique deemed unconstitutional
State v. Johnson Court upholds ruling, emphasizing need for reasonable suspicion

Firsthand Experience

Individuals who have been subject to vehicle searches under the ‘Kansas two-step’ technique may have grounds for legal recourse following this ruling. It is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to understand your rights and pursue any relevant legal actions.


The ruling against the ‘Kansas two-step’ highway patrol technique marks a significant development in the realm of marijuana vehicle searches and law enforcement practices. By upholding constitutional protections, this decision reinforces the importance of balancing law enforcement needs with individual rights.



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