• 93% of KHP stops along I-70 were for out-of-state motorists and most of them were drivers of color.
A District Court judge has overruled the Kansas Highway Patrol’s motion to dismiss an ACLU of Kansas lawsuit challenging KHP’s practice of unconstitutionally targeting motorists with out-of-state plates traveling to and from Colorado and its routine use of the “Kansas Two-Step.”
The class-action lawsuit seeks injunctive and declaratory relief for three named plaintiffs stopped and illegally detained by the KHP essentially for driving a car with out-of-state plates and visiting a state that has legalized marijuana use.
“Drivers with out-of-state plates made up 93% of KHP stops in 2017,” the lawsuit said. “Further, out-of-state motorists driving through Kansas on I-70 constituted 96% of all of KHP’s civil forfeitures in 2019. Most of those motorists were drivers of color.”
The lawsuit said the KHP has maintained a practice of detaining drivers after the initial purpose of the stop had been resolved to then question drivers about their travel plans absent consent or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Officers often use a maneuver nicknamed in law enforcement circles as the “Kansas Two-Step” to accomplish these illegal detentions.
After issuing a ticket or warning and telling the driver to have a safe trip, the officer turns his or her body, takes two steps toward the patrol car but returns to the driver’s window to ask if the driver would answer a few more questions.
This technique is used to break off an initial traffic detention and attempt to reengage the driver in what would then be considered a consensual encounter. It is taught to all KHP officers and is included in KHP’s training materials.
The plaintiffs in this case were detained drivers, endured canine unit searches, and one endured a personal pat down on the side of the highway, said Lauren Bonds, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas.
“The standard for this kind of invasion of privacy has to be higher than out-of-state plates, a Colorado destination and minority status,” Bonds said in January. “This practice is unconstitutional on many levels.”