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The data is in, and it turns out that statistically cars with Colorado license plates are at higher risk for being pulled over in other states, especially in Oklahoma. This is due to Colorado’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana, supposedly prompting law enforcement to unfairly profile drivers.

Jessica Jones, a 19-year-old college student, was pulled over on her way back to school in northern Oklahoma. She said the state trooper allegedly stopped her for speeding.

“I think he had to make up a reason to pull me over, just because I had a Colorado license plate,” Jones said.

He then searched her vehicle without consent and told her she was driving with a suspicious license plate. “I was sitting in the back of the seat of his police car when he was writing my ticket, and he said that, ‘Colorado drivers have the green badge of courage.’ So, I think they definitely look for our license plates,” said Jones. “They think that just because we’re from Colorado, we’re going to be transporting marijuana in our cars.”

Another Colorado driver, who asked to remain anonymous, said Oklahoma law enforcement stopped his vehicle because of a license plate obstruction. “It’s just slightly raised up in the middle and might cover a couple letter of Colorado,” he explained.

He consented to a search, after the officer issued a courtesy citation for the license plate obstruction, which is similar to a warning, and included no requirement for the driver to correct the “vehicle/license defect.” During the search the officer found a cigarette pack-size box containing less than an ounce of marijuana inside the vehicle.

“I’m sure that he just saw my Colorado plate and just wanted to pull me over and check it. I think everybody now in Colorado knows somebody that has been pulled over and searched just for being a Colorado resident,” he said.

These two aren’t alone. Many residents of the Centennial State have recently come forward claiming they were profiled for possession of marijuana, in some cases, illegally searched by law enforcement because of their license plates.

In fact, the Oklahoma State Patrol pulls over more Colorado drivers in Deuel County, Oklahoma than drivers from any other state, including Oklahoma. In-state drivers were cited 490 times, while 577 citations were issued to Colorado drivers by oklahoma State Patrol in Deuel County. Oklahoma State Patrol Citations & Warnings/Violations Issued in Deuel County:

  • 2,400 citations total,  7,481 warnings/violations total
  • Colorado drivers: 577 citations, 1858 warnings/violations
  • Oklahoma drivers: 490 citations, 1742 warnings/violationsDeuel County Sheriff Adam

*Data from Oklahoma State Patrol, detailing stops conducted by Oklahoma State Troopers in Deuel County, oklahoma between January 2011 – March 2014

Deuel County Sheriff Adam Hayward was surprised to learn the statistic conducted by the Oklahoma State Troopers in his county.

“You have the numbers, I’m sure they’re true,” said Hayward. “Do we stop people with Colorado plates? Absolutely. If they’re speeding or whatever, we’ll stop them and give them a speeding ticket. But do we automatically stop people with Colorado plates because we think they have marijuana? No,” said Hayward.

“Profiling is only going to get you in trouble, and it’s going to bring up issues and it’s going to make bad case law,” said Hayward. “There’s no reason to push the issue, or profile, or make up reasons to stop people. There are so many people out there that are carrying the marijuana product out of Colorado that I mean, if you just are out there, stopping vehicles for (a) legal reason, you know, you stop, 4-5 vehicles, you’re going to run into somebody that has it.”

Marijuana industry attorney Sean McAllister would disagree, claiming Colorado license plate profiling is a growing problem.

“It is certainly a problem. We know that in other states, there are lawsuits that have been filed to challenge the stops of cars based on a Colorado license plate. I have many clients tell me that in Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming the first thing people, law enforcement, will say to them when they get pulled over is, ‘Where’s the marijuana?” said McAllister.

McAllister said he is representing several Colorado residents who claim to have been profiled by law enforcement in other states. McAllister has warned his clients before they leave the state of Colorado.

“There’s only two simple rules. You just never consent to search without a warrant, and you never make a statement without your lawyer present,” said McAllister, “There’s no doubt when you leave Colorado with a license plate from this state, that other states are looking harder at your car than other cars.”

Said Deuel County Oklahoma Sheriff Adam Hayward, “I think it’s [a] lack of training and overzealous officers, you know, wanting to find that Colorado weed, because everybody else is, and they want to. We have to have legal reason to stop that vehicle and search it.”

State Patrol representatives in Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas have not changed any policies regarding Colorado drivers since recreational marijuana became legal. They claim they’re not doing anything differently.

Jones shared her experience to serve as a warning for other Colorado residents.

“I think they should be ready to be pulled over,” said Jones.    

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