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Driving while Coloradan

Posted by Richard on April 7, 2014

A week ago, I posted about the 70-year-old Colorado man whose car was stopped and searched in Idaho because it had Colorado license plates. But it’s not just Idaho cops who think that a Colorado license plate is sufficient probable cause to stop and search a car.

Apparently, driving while Coloradan can get you stopped and searched in Nevada, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee… and those are just the easily found cases that made the news somewhere. Most are anecdotal, but the Des Moines Register analyzed some state data on highway patrol traffic stops in Iowa:

By far, drivers with license plates hailing from California, Colorado and Illinois received the most warnings and violations over the past five years — more than 30 percent. Almost 12 percent of the warnings and violations were given to motorists with California plates; 11 percent to Colorado plates; and almost 10 percent to Illinois plates.

Drivers with Iowa plates, meanwhile, accounted for about 14 percent of the warnings and citations.

What percentage of cars on the road in Iowa do you suppose have Colorado plates? I’m going to guess that Coloradans are at least ten times as likely (and maybe much more) to be stopped in Iowa as Iowans.

Lawsuits such as the one filed against Idaho are one way to deal with this geographic profiling. But I think some grass-roots action would also be a good idea. Someone (not me) ought to organize a letter-writing campaign targeting state tourism agencies and newspapers in the offending states, encouraging Coloradans to send them letters along these lines:

We’ve been considering a road trip [to/through] [name of state] to visit [cite one or more tourist destinations, including in that state]. But we’re having second thoughts because of reports that police in [name of state] stop and search cars from Colorado. Is anything being done to put a stop to this kind of illegal profiling? The idea of spending two hours on the side of the road while our car is searched just because we’re from Colorado makes a visit to [name of state] very unappealing.

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One Response to “Driving while Coloradan”

  1. Rick Shultz said

    I’m sure there are probably plenty of folks who would like to help you guys out. Colorado is a beautiful place and I’d love to see it in person instead of in videos and photos. And I’m dead sure I wouldn’t be exposed to the kind of bullshit you guys have to put up with here. But Heaven knows the government of Tennessee doesn’t listen to the people who LIVE here, so I doubt they’ll listen to anyone else.

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