JUDGE SHUTS DOWN KANSAS HIGHWAY PATROL "TWO STEP" MANUEVER
TOPEKA — The Kansas Highway Patrol has been ordered to stop its infamous “two-step” technique by a federal judge, in what the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas calls a “huge win” for all motorists using state highways.
The U.S. district court ruled that the Patrol’s policies and practices violate the Fourth Amendment, releasing a Friday opinion that the Patrol “has waged war on motorists — especially out-of-state residents traveling between Colorado and Missouri on federal highway I-70 in Kansas.”
The trial challenged the constitutionality of the Patrol’s policy of targeting out-of-staters and other “suspicious” people for vehicle searches by drug-sniffing dogs, along with the “Kansas two-step” maneuver. The “ two-step” is a technique taught to Kansas State Patrol personnel, in which they end a routine traffic stop and begin a separate effort to dig for information and gain entry to a vehicle to search for contraband.
The opinion said the Patrol’s actions weren’t “a fair fight.” The Kansas State Patrol couldn’t be reached for comment on the situation.
“The war is basically a question of numbers: Stop enough cars and you’re bound to discover drugs,” the opinion added.
The court case came after Blain Shaw, an Oklahoma City resident, was pulled over near Hays, Kansas, while on his way to visit family and friends in Denver with his brother. He was stopped for speeding on Interstate 70 by Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Doug Schulte, who reported he clocked Shaw driving 91 mph in a 75 mph zone. Schulte ticketed Shaw and then walked away, before doubling back in a “trooper two-step” and returning to Shaw.
The trooper then asked Shaw and his brother if they were hauling anything illegal, such as firearms or narcotics. Shaw answered in the negative but refused to grant permission to Schulte when he asked to search his van. The trooper then called in a K-9 unit to search Shaw’s vehicle.
Though troopers didn’t find evidence of drugs, the Patrol required Shaw to report to a nearby law enforcement office so copies could be made of his medical records, Colorado identification card and medical marijuana registration.
The incident snowballed into a trial challenging the Kansas Highway Patrol’s policy, with legal defense arguing Schulte violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by searching Shaw’s vehicle.
Shaw and other plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Spencer Fane LLP, filed Shaw v. Jones in 2020 to challenge the Patrol’s practice of detaining motorists with out-of-state license plates and the “two-step” maneuver. The defendant in the case was Herman Jones, in his official capacity as Patrol superintendent.
The lawsuit was consolidated with a separate suit brought by Mark Erich and Shawna Maloney, who had their family’s RV ransacked by KHP troopers in 2018 in another “two-step” incident.
The ruling comes after two weeks of trials.
The court found Jones responsible for the practice of unlawfully detaining motorists in Kansas without reasonable suspicion or consent, especially those out of state, and decreed that the Kansas Two-Step violates the Fourth Amendment, extending traffic stops “without reasonable suspicion and without the motorists’ knowing, intelligent and voluntary consent.”
“This is a huge win — for our clients and for anyone else who travels on Kansas highways. We are gratified that the Court saw the ongoing harms of KHP’s unconstitutional practices and stepped in to stop the department’s widespread misconduct,” said Sharon Brett, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas.
“It also demonstrates that courts will not tolerate the cowboy mentality of policing that subjects our citizens to conditions of humiliation, degradation, and, in some tragic cases, violence.” Brett added.