For the average, law-abiding motorist, encountering a checkpoint while traveling down the interstate is inconvenient, but not cause for alarm. More a motorist with something to hide, however, running into a checkpoint is definitely problematic and may be cause for evasive action when possible. What those motorists may not know though, is that law enforcement agencies may be playing a little trick on them by setting up a “ruse” checkpoint. Whether you have something to hide or not, if you work, live, or otherwise travel through the State of Nebraska, you need to know what a ruse checkpoint is and how to respond when you come upon one.
What Is a Standard Checkpoint?
Law enforcement agencies have used checkpoints as an enforcement tool for decades. A police checkpoint involves law enforcement officers stationed along the roadway while vehicles are funneled past them. If the checkpoint is one a highway or other multi-lane roadway, traffic is forced to slow down and merge into one lane. This allows the police officers a better opportunity to watch each vehicle as is passes through the checkpoint. Officers are allowed to stop vehicles briefly to check licenses and registrations; however, these brief detentions also allow officers to smell a driver’s breath, look inside a vehicle for evidence of drugs, or otherwise establish the probable cause needed for a lengthier detention of the vehicle. Although there are strict procedures that must be followed and boundaries that are not supposed to be crossed by law enforcement officers, checkpoints are perfectly legal.
How Does a Ruse Checkpoint Differ from a Standard Checkpoint?
Ruse checkpoints have also been used in the State of Nebraska for over a decade. When a ruse checkpoint is used, a “State Patrol checkpoint” sign will be placed on the interstate, along with a “Drug dog in use” sign, in time for drivers to use an exit. The idea is that drivers who have something to hide will take the exit, where they are met by State Troopers. In other words, a ruse checkpoint is a “fake” checkpoint that prompts motorists with something to hide to exit the interstate before they reach the non-existent checkpoint.
What You Need to Know about Ruse Checkpoints
While there may be no doubt that a motorist appears to have something to hide by exiting prior to reaching the pretend checkpoint, that is not sufficient legal reason to pull the vehicle over and arrest someone. What the police count on, however, is that a motorist who has been drinking, or who has drugs in the vehicle, will become nervous and commit a traffic infraction during the exit from the interstate. That traffic infraction may then provide the legal basis necessary for the police to make a traffic stop. Once the traffic stop is made, if the police become suspicious that there are drugs in the vehicle, for example, the motorist may be detained for a reasonable amount of time in order for a drug dog team to arrive to check and conduct a search.
A recent ruse checkpoint operation on I-80 in Nebraska obtained the following results:
- Two arrests. A 29-year-old Minnesota man, was jailed on charges of possession of 10 pounds of marijuana with intent to deliver and a 19-year-old Colorado man was arrested on charges of possession of 13 grams of hashish and drug paraphernalia.
- 24 citations for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
- 15 citations for drug paraphernalia.
- One citation for having an open container of alcohol.
- One citation for driving under suspension.
- 50 warnings or citations for traffic violations.
If you drive through Nebraska on a regular basis, it is important to be aware that these “ruse” checkpoints exist and to understand the goal behind them. Whether it is a real checkpoint or a ruse, the best way to handle it is to avoid becoming overly nervous which is likely to lead to precisely what the police are hoping for – commission of a traffic infraction or overtly illegal behavior that provides them with the legal right to stop you.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.