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Colorado Drug Checkpoints and Constitutional Rights

In nearby Westminster, police recently stopped 23 cars at a high-profile drug checkpoint. All of the cars stopped had violated minor traffic laws while travelling toward Boulder on U.S. 36. Three traffic citations were issued and one man was arrested on the suspicion he had a felony amount of marijuana.

Law enforcement officers conducted the checkpoint on the Boulder Turnpike as a way to crack down on large-scale drug trafficking in the Westminster and Denver metro areas. As a part of the checkpoint, police pull cars over based on minor traffic violations, and then they look for signs that might provide a justification to search a vehicle.

"May I Look in Your Trunk?"

In many cases, the police also ask drivers for permission to search their vehicle. When an officer asks to conduct a search, the driver has every right to say no. In fact, Colorado law requires that officers must inform drivers that they have the right to refuse a voluntary search. Unfortunately, many in Colorado do not know that they have the right to decline a voluntary search.

While there was no indication that the recent searches were completed improperly, there are times when police may not have adequate justification or probable cause and yet their curiosity prompts them to search a vehicle. These searches are unlawful. When this is the case, an experienced defense attorney may be able to help an individual defend his or her constitutional rights.

The recent drug checkpoint was the second conducted by the Westminster Police so far this year. The last occurred in August 2011 on Interstate 25. The department will likely continue to use the checkpoints, so it is important that Colorado residents understand their rights.

Source: Boulder Daily Camera, "Police stop 23 Boulder-bound drivers on U.S. 36 at drug checkpoint", Joe Rubino and Cory Lamz, June 13, 2012

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