Fake drug checkpoints not likely in Summit
SUMMIT COUNTY – In the ongoing battle against drugs, courts recently have given law enforcement agencies another trick in the trade of snagging offenders.
To wit: It’s illegal for police to set up a checkpoint searching for narcotics, but it is legal for police to make you think you’re approaching such a checkpoint and arrest you based on how you react.
Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales, however, said Friday that such tactics would not likely be used on his watch.
Colorado’s Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in a case stemming from an arrest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2000. The sheriff of San Miguel County, where Telluride is located, is known for his libertarian views on drug enforcement.
Nearby Dolores County is not. Dolores County agencies set up signs saying “”Narcotics checkpoint, one mile ahead” and “”Narcotics canine ahead” on intercounty roads. One officer would watch for cars turning around or throwing objects out the window, then radio another officer down the road to stop vehicles seen doing so.
In one instance, police arrested a 60-year-old man after an officer observed him throw what appeared to be a pipe out the window. A search of the man’s car turned up a marijuana pipe and mushrooms. He appealed his conviction on possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to the courts, drug checkpoints are illegal because they stop people at random without suspicion of committing a crime. Fake drug checkpoints are legal because, well, there is no checkpoint.
In a similar vein, agencies can conduct sobriety checkpoints, and case law stemming from DUI checkpoint arrests and convictions is extensive. Police must adequately advertise the sobriety stops and also must give drivers an alternative route that does not pass through the checkpoint.
“These days, with drugs, it’s about who can out-fox the other,” Morales said of the tactic. Morales’ agency oversees a drug task force, a cooperative effort of the county’s police agencies to root out large drug operations. But the sheriff said fake drug checkpoints probably wouldn’t be put to use. “It’d probably be just as effective doing regular interdiction work on Interstate 70.”
– The Associated Press contributed
to this report
Reid Williams can be reached at
(970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or
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