drug-checkpoints

What To Do When You See A Drug Checkpoint While Travelling

I recently returned from a short vacation that necessitated a long drive across Nebraska, that awkward geological transition parading as a state; a wedge of emptiness and gloom separating the fertile heartland from the Rocky Mountains. There is no such thing as a necessary evil, and Nebraska is the exception that proves that rule. As if the slight against beauty and decency that is the long drive through that state was not painful and undignified enough, at one point I was subjected to the threat of an illegal stop and search.

Somewhere in the vicinity of North Platte, while driving on I-80, I saw a sign that warned of a drug checkpoint with K9 searches ahead. And even though I had less than half a gram of weed on me (just enough to make that unbearable drive) my first instinct was to panic. Somewhere in between making plans to swallow or toss my stash I remembered an important fact- drug checkpoints are illegal.

In the 2000 case of City of Indianapolis vs. Edmond, the Supreme Court ruled that random stops and searches without any probable cause or reasonable suspicions are unconstitutional. The ruling is based on the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of other checkpoints in which they reasoned a specific crime or threat to security was present and the random stops were justified, despite the Fourth Amendment. But in the case of drug checkpoints it was concluded that such a broad justification for making random, suspicionless stops was a slippery slope that threatened to erode our liberties and rights through aggressive, predatory law enforcement.

However, even though the checkpoints have been ruled illegal, this has not prevented law enforcement from conducting loophole-devised versions of them anyhow. The Supreme Court ruling only states that law enforcement cannot force you to stop at a drug checkpoints, but it did not say anything about using deceptions and ruses to draw you into their net under the threat of one. According to flexyourrights.org:

Police departments sometimes put up signs warning drivers of upcoming drug checkpoints. (This alone is not illegal.) But they will not pull over people who go through a checkpoint – because there technically is no checkpoint. Instead, officers will watch for vehicles approaching the nonexistent checkpoint and pull over for vehicles who make illegal u-turns or discard contraband in order to avoid the fictitious “Drug Checkpoint Ahead.”

So if you see such signs, keep driving and don’t panic. If there’s a rest area following the sign, DO NOT pull into it. If you do, you might find yourself surrounded by drug-sniffing dogs.

It is also not a good idea to toss your stash out the window, as there could very well be surveillance capturing your panicked moment of desperation. Just remain calm, drive proper and move along and you can stay free to smoke again soon, which you will likely need after that unjustified stress.

Here is another problem with drug checkpoints. They can potentially induce large amounts of anxiety, panic and distress in drivers who are riding dirty, even if its just a small stain. If I were in charge of maintaining harmony and order on a roadway in which people were travelling at an average speed of 70mph, the last thing I would want to do would be to induce people to panic, thus causing them to think and act erratically and putting themselves and others in danger. Not only do drug checkpoints do nothing to keep roadways safe, they do the exact opposite by providing confrontational interactions with people who need to exercise their focus and concentration on driving, and not squirming in fear and intimidation. The roads are dangerous enough, with nearly 1/4 of all unintentional deaths every year attributable to motor vehicle accidents.

While there has been great concern that driving while high is dangerous, research suggests that there is very little impairment in the driving skills of marijuana users. There is likely a greater threat caused by manufactured panic, paranoia and stress caused by law enforcement agencies playing revenue generation games with drivers. But certainly there is more threat to drivers from more accepted forms of roadway distraction like cell phones and other devices, or by passengers, prescriptions or general fatigue. So long as potholes are a greater threat to drivers than pot, marijuana should not be used as a reasoning to threaten or harass drivers who are otherwise abiding all of the laws and courtesies of the road.

Drug checkpoints are a last ditch effort by law enforcement agencies desperate to hold on to their cash cow. The war on drugs, and especially marijuana prohibition, have been a scam from which the ranks and budgets of these agencies have grown fat; and complacent about actual crime. While violent crimes rates have steadily lowered, the rate of clearance (solving them) has dropped even more drastically. Solving real crimes is hard work, but not much in the way of profitability. Techniques like checkpoints have allowed an unnatural growth of law enforcement, that if checked, will mean a lot of unemployed officers and reduced budgets. But if you KNOW YOUR RIGHTS you can avoid being a victim of their desperation and greed.

To avoid getting caught off guard, the next you see a drug checkpoint on the road, just remember my newly minted SCUM formula.
S– Stay calm and proceed past.
C– Checkpoints are illegal.
U– Use common sense while driving.
M– Move far away before stopping or toking.

And while I can help you along with some advice on dealing with drug checkpoints, I cannot counsel you on how to deal with crossing Nebraska by car. There are some things we must each face on our own, in our own way.

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  1. Janet Goree

    Oh the memories of North Platte. Used to drive a truck and got hassled(as a not bad looking blonde chick with an attitude) every single solitary time I went through the scale house there. I guess life is such hell there they need to f with people. And thanks for the info

  2. Terry

    I know this feeling. Its how I feel every time I pass through a state with draconian gun laws while having a handgun in my vehicle for self protection. I could potentially be arrested for a felony for doing something that is not only legal in my home state, but constitutionally protected.

  3. Nick Danger

    Just saw the same set up on I-80 Saturday April 22, 2017.
    There was an obscure country road with an exit just beyond the last warning sign.

    Thank god we have a constitution, that’s the way I gutted out the scene.
    Eventually miles passed with no check point, my thought was if Police weren’t trying to trap “tourists”, a strong-arm operation was going on. Or else some clever Nebraska kids figured out a way to capitalize on the new Colorado law by gathering up the jettisoned baggies.

  4. Anonymous

    I saw one of these signs while crossing Kansas on I-70 but never came to an actual checkpoint. I was a nervous wreck, driving dirty but only with a small stain. This article is awesome–great advice. Thanks much for posting it.


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