Law Enforcement: Traveling From Anywhere To Anywhere Is Suspicious Behavior

from the a-nation-of-300-million-drug-dealers dept

Want to travel from anywhere to anywhere in the United States without being hassled by law enforcement officers? Good luck with that, citizen.

USA Today's Brad Heath pointed out an interesting footnote in an asset forfeiture filing that made the assertion that traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles is inherently suspicious. (One presumes the opposite is also true.)


If you can't see the embed, the government's footnoted assertion reads:
Chicago is a known consumer city for narcotics and Los Angeles is a known source city where narcotics can be purchased.
Also of note: suspect had a backpack, an item used to carry stuff -- something no legitimate traveler would possess.

Turns out this sort of ridiculous assertion isn't limited to this particular filing. Law enforcement agencies are of the firm belief that traveling between any cities where drugs might be "consumed" (which would be every city in the US) and any cities where drugs might be sold (again, the list is long and inclusive) is a healthy indicator of drug-related activity.

The following map lists "known" drug "source" [red] and "destination" [blue] cities, along with links to relevant court filings or statements by law enforcement officials. Pretty much traveling from any large city to anywhere else could be construed as a drug run.


Even though the courts are sometimes unimpressed by this facet of reasonable suspicion, it's still routinely used to justify searches of all things.

US v. Green
Once we discount the facts with which we find weaknesses, we are left with Green's arrival on a plane from a known source city, and her vagueness about the purpose of her trip. These facts are insufficient to demonstrate a reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity.
US v. Newland
Given that nearly every stretch of interstate is considered a drug corridor, the fact that a stop occurred on any such route is almost meaningless. See United States v. Wisniewksi, 358 F. Supp. 2d 1074, 1093 (D. Utah 2005) (“[T]raveling on a ‘drug corridor’ cannot reasonably support a suspicion that the traveler is carrying contraband. To so hold would give law enforcement officers reasonable suspicion that every vehicle on every major—and many minor—thoroughfares throughout this country was transporting drugs.”), aff’d, 192 Fed. App’x 749 (10th Cir. 2006). Furthermore, because of courts’ willingness to designate various cities and states as “source” regions for narcotics, it is likely that most major roads in this country could be considered drug corridors. See Foreman, 369 F.3d at 795 (Gregory, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); United States v. Beck, 140 F.3d 1129, 1138 n.3 38 (8th Cir. 1998) (citing cases recognizing, inter alia, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Arizona, the entire West Coast, New Jersey, New York City, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Chicago, and Dallas as drug source cities or states); State v. Quirk, 842 N.E.2d 334, 343 (Ind. 2006) (“[C]onsidering the substantial number of states and cities that have been designated as sources of drugs, a motorist, in our highly mobile society, would be hard pressed not to travel either from, to, or through a drug-source jurisdiction.”).
Speaking of which, if you're not flying, you're probably driving. Nearly every major highway in the US can be considered a "drug corridor," depending on who you ask. These "drug corridors," also known as "interstate highways," are prime trolling spots for asset forfeiture. Traveling along these roads subjects out-of-state travelers to instant suspicion and warrantless searches, simply because these roads are also used by drug traffickers. Good luck avoiding using one of these highways during a road trip.


Now, some of you might be saying, "Every one of these cases cited resulted in a law enforcement officer finding drugs! They're right to be so suspicious!" Well, arrestees have more motivation than most to challenge the constitutionality of a search. Many innocent people who have been illegally searched simply because they're on one of these roads/in any major airport won't file a lawsuit. In fact, many people probably believe law enforcement has the right to search people and vehicles simply because of their originating cities and/or destinations. On top of that, many searches and seizures are tied to asset forfeiture, where no conviction is ever obtained and the amount of money seized suddenly seems unimportant when a lawyer informs someone they'd need $5000 or so to even consider fighting the uphill battle to liberate the seized funds.

And if you don't believe me, here's Eighth Circuit Appeals Court Chief Judge Richard Arnold -- from all the way back in 1992 -- explaining the dangers inherent to viewing travellers as drug traffickers simply because of where they're going or where they've come from.
The White opinion is less than three years old, and none of our cases decided since that time has questioned it or thrown doubt upon it in any way. There are differences between the present facts and those in White, to be sure, as there always are, but the differences, on balance, do not place this search and seizure appreciably closer to the line of legality than what happened in White. Like Weaver, White was “very nervous,” he arrived from a source city, the flight was early in the morning, and White had no checked luggage. Some of the facts in White, indeed, appear stronger than the present case: for example, White had purchased his ticket with cash, and it was a one-way ticket. The agents did not know whether Weaver had bought his ticket for cash or not, or whether it was one way. Weaver did not have a copy of his ticket, but sometimes innocent people lose their tickets, to say nothing of ticket coupons which may be of no further use to them. I have lost tickets myself. Weaver had no identification, or at least declined to produce any, but this was his undoubted right: we have not yet come to the point in this country (except maybe in airports) when citizens must identify themselves to public employees.

[...]

Airports are on the verge of becoming war zones, where anyone is liable to be stopped, questioned, and even searched merely on the basis of the on-the-spot exercise of discretion by police officers. The liberty of the citizen, in my view, is seriously threatened by this practice. The sanctity of private property, a precious human right, is endangered. It’s hard to work up much sympathy for Weaver. He’s getting what he deserves, in a sense. What is missing here, though, is an awareness that law enforcement is a broad concept. It includes enforcement of the Bill of Rights, as well as enforcement of criminal statutes. Cases in which innocent travelers are stopped and impeded in their lawful activities don’t come to court. They go on their way, too busy to bring a lawsuit against the officious agents who have detained them. If the Fourth Amendment is to be enforced, therefore, it must be by way of motions to suppress in cases like this.
This is America, post-declaration of (drug) war. This has been 40 years in development. Now, we've added the faulty assumptions of the post-9/11 "national security above all" mindset to it. Traveling from anywhere to anywhere is to invite the suspicions of our nation's domestic "warriors" who patrol our airports and highways, ever-vigilant for the opportunity to rip open luggage or toss a rented car in hopes of finding drugs… or better yet, cold, hard cash.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 10:42am

    Remain in your homes, citizens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 10:44am

    Wow - they do not even try anymore.
    Kind of sad, but expected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 10:53am

    Talk about grasping at straws...

    ...Also of note: suspect had a backpack, an item used to carry stuff -- something no legitimate traveler would possess...

    I see backpacks all the F'n time, at airports, bus stops, train stations, and even damn near every school!


    (If that was sarcasm, sorry that I missed it, but backpacks by themselves should not be probable cause for any stop.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 2:56pm

      Re: Talk about grasping at straws...

      Backpacks are cheaper than luggage and easier on the body for long trips. They're also durable.

      But yes, I can see a backpack as an indicator of low income, thus less likely to be able to afford defense in court.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      MC, 9 Jun 2016 @ 8:39am

      Re: Talk about grasping at straws...

      You actually missed that sarcasm? Christ, do you need to be beaten into your head with a tire iron?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Woadan (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 10:58am

    Wow, how many college courses did you need to get to this conclusion? I think you did too much LDS in the 60s in Berkley.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:41am

      Re:

      I think you did too much LDS in the 60s in Berkley.

      Umm, what's LDS?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 2:58pm

        LDS

        Mormonism.

        It's the legal but less effective hallucinogen when you cannot get (or risk) lysergic acid diethylamide.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Nov 2015 @ 6:17am

        Re: Re:

        I think he's referencing Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home. RE: the comment, I think he's replying to something else. It's a bit of a non-sequitur, isn't it?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ben (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:47am

      Re:

      Can you actually do "too much" Latter Day Saints?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      lanceelliott (profile), 1 Nov 2015 @ 1:24am

      Re: LDS at Berkley

      I believe you meant to write "LSD". If you meant to reference the Mormons, please contact me as I am compiling data on various secret societies, and would like more info if you have it well sourced and documented.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 1 Nov 2015 @ 9:55am

        Too much Hippy LDS in America

        Look up Brian Keith Dalton, an ex-Mormon who is my source of culty, secret-society lore regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

        An Underground Education by Richard Zacks presents a solid case for the Mormon Dogma being used by Brigham Young as a mechanism to hook up with young women (by convincing them that Jesus requires them to have sex with him right now), but I'm pretty sure that's standard protocol for any charismatic cult leader.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Andy Lyke, 2 Nov 2015 @ 3:36am

      Re: Spelling test

      10) (last question, 5 points) Spell "LSD"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:00am

    And, of course, explicitly avoiding these corridors will be viewed as suspicious and result in a vehicle search/asset seizure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 1 Nov 2015 @ 10:03am

      The end of law

      I think this whole thread ties in nicely with the bits regarding prosecutorial discretion. Once the police always have cause to bust you and the DA can always find cause to jail you, then our state becomes authoritarianism.

      Which is mostly okay so long as we have wise rulers (even Julius would bury his enemies). But a couple of Caligulas and Joffreys (or worse, Tomlins with Cerseis behind them) and we'll rapidly be reminded why we tried to get away from all that.

      Talk about one step forward, three steps back.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:02am

    Uhh, yeah, the Latter Day Saints (LDS) do wonders to the mind. Perhaps you meant LSD?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zero, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:08am

    One Question

    Is this America? That's the one question I have now.

    I enjoy reading your articles and the flurry of outrages and questions alike that I go through when reading about these disturbing events (which is great as it's needed), however, I don't think this is America anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:33pm

      Re: One Question

      Whatever gave you that idea?

      Over 90% of the policies passed by our so-called democratic republic (which is a misnomer) in the last 30 years have been to no benefit to the public...Surely there's a good reason for it? /End_Sarcasm

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 3:02pm

        Re: Re: One Question

        Because the United States has been a corporate oligarchy pretty much through the twentieth century?

        Only now we have enough history to see through the fantasy of government by the people.

        I just hope we figure out how to do better before the revolution ends.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2015 @ 3:06am

      Re: One Question

      You could call it Amerika instead if you prefer

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:08am

    To be fair the person involved, Issa Serieh was a known drug dealer. He was arrested with 128.22 lbs of marijuana a few months before in Jan 2015.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:42pm

      Re:

      Yeah because we all know that pot is a gateway drug and leads to self-destructive suicidal tenancies:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Azf320JDdqU

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 2:40pm

        Re: Re:

        Of course it is a gateway drug. That's what the police told me, that's what many politicians in the EU say so it must be true.
        And when a police officer stopped me with a few grams of weed he told me to smoke a cigarette to calm down. Then while we were smoking he told me that weed is really really bad for my health. *true story*
        Now, if you excuse me. I have to calm myself down with a few packs of cigarettes and 2 bottles of vodka because those things are harmless.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John85851 (profile), 31 Oct 2015 @ 10:51am

        Re: Re:

        Of course pot is a gateway drug. After pot was legalized in Colorado, the whole state is now hooked on hardcore drugs. Just look at Denver- the whole city is nothing but a druggie wasteland.

        Oh, wait, that didn't happen? And Colorado is bringing in tons of tax revenue from the sale of pot? And the number of people in prison has been reduced since they're not arresting casual pot users?
        Nah, it's definitely a gateway drug.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:45pm

      Re:

      Seriously, praise BIG Pharma for not having a history so dark as pot:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAzh28nEoWU

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:10pm

      Re:

      Where, it's where you dolt.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:26pm

      Re:

      Doesn't matter, and if anything that just makes it worse. If they had a known drug dealer on their hands, surely it wouldn't have been difficult at all to come up with better justification than 'they were travelling and had a backpack'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2015 @ 4:14am

        Re: Re:

        Then how would they justify stopping and searching everyone else. Unless they claimed using a backpack and travelling meant you were up to no good

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:10am

    I think i'm gonna go ahead and replace all instances of Interstate with "drug corridor" in my parlance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ryunosuke, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:35am

    Dear Mr Cushing....

    I see your article is traveling to and from a major city outside of your residence, is your article therefor transporting drugs and/or money to buy drugs? What is the business of your article to traveling to major hubs of drug trafficking? Why is your article using a major drug trafficking network?

    /end sarcasm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:44am

    Parallel construction

    There is often a method to this madness. The cops naturally don't want to give away their profiling methods, so they invent bullshit reasons for why they targeted someone for "special attention".

    And so this will be their official story -- even if it means lying under oath.

    On the other hand, that's not to say that all cops that appear to be playing dumb are sly as a fox. Many cops really are complete idiots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:58am

    You have 20 seconds to comply...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:01pm

    This is not America

    Good luck with that, citizen.

    Citizen?

    There aren't many American citizens remaining in the once was republic. The majority of the population appears to be well conditioned serfs who willingly genuflect to the criminally insane, their masters, the "officials" and "authorities" infesting all levels of government when commanded to do so (some are so well conditioned they genuflect without being ordered).

    America..... America.... where have you gone?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJRF8xGzvj4

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:10pm

      Re: This is not America

      "where have you gone? "

      Far far from the mainstream. Behind vpns and tor exit nodes will you find us. Not a single vote cast for an oligarchy posing in sheep's clothing. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:25pm

    My suspicions have been confirmed. Everyone is guilty of everything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:54pm

    sounds like yet another case of extreme USA paranoia, mixed in with doses of 'we can behave however the fuck we like because we are members of the USA security forces!'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:58pm

    Traveling to the source?

    They searched him for traveling TO (not from) a drug source. So, in theory, they didn't have any reason to suspect that he would be carrying drugs.

    In their twisted minds, they might suspect travelers to LAX of having money to purchase drugs, but there's no law against domestic travel with cash. Unless they hope to find a little note tied to money saying, "For the purchase of illegal drugs", what do they hope to accomplish by searching people traveling to a supposed drug source?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 1:10pm

      Re: Traveling to the source?

      If you are traveling to the source, you are clearly a dealer traveling to meet your clients and unload your product. If you are traveling from the source, you are clearly a client who just bought contraband from a dealer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 1:37pm

        Re: Re: Traveling to the source?

        So sign up for welfare and lock your doors and never come out.

        Coming to a society near you:


        "not watching ads or socializing on facebook et al while holed in is a sheer sign of terrorism"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2015 @ 4:16am

          Re: Re: Re: Traveling to the source?

          There was an amusing news report a few years ago, where they pretty much said not using facebook means your a potential terrorist.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2015 @ 4:15am

      Re: Traveling to the source?

      When did they need a lawful reason to steal people's cash?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Atkray (profile), 1 Nov 2015 @ 5:50pm

        Re: Re: Traveling to the source?

        This^

        They search people coming in at the source because then they can arrest the money and let the person go.

        This guy messed that up by actually having drugs instead of the cash they were looking for.

        Remember, you need to keep your eye on the "asset forfeiture hand" not the "war on drugs hand"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 30 Oct 2015 @ 2:32pm

    When there's no actual justification for your existence (or your job), then you have to make up stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 4:04pm

    nation gone mad.

    i thank you, sweet lord, for allowing me to live in this place before it went mad. they will be faint, but i will have my memories.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 6:01pm

    "Every one of these cases cited resulted in a law enforcement officer finding drugs! They're right to be so suspicious!"

    Or, illicit drug use is so ubuiquitous (or easily mfgr'd), you may find illicit drugs on everyone you arrest. Feature! Hell, plant some on them. They're likely hippies/minorities anyway (aka nobody).

    Prohibition v. 2. They learned from v. 1: how to implement a police state and blame it on saving the public from "Demon Rum", or whatever else comes up.

    It's just how Caesar rules, and has done for millennia. We should be used to it by now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2015 @ 3:05am

    emigrate or take back control of your country

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan morgan, 31 Oct 2015 @ 8:05am

    freedom of travel

    Well, have you ever heard one of our wonderfully liberty deficient leaders, make a statement, along this line" well it's not in the constitution, so we can regulate it" just like cars! Just goes to show you how much the care about our liberties, and how far our law enforcement.will stoop. to enforce laws, contrary to the constitution they swore. to . to honor, and protect! Only to march us down the road to become ,nothing more than a dictatorship! Please welcome the police state courtesy of bad leaders and their friends in law enforcement!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2015 @ 9:53am

    'Merrica' The biggest monger that ever was...

    Bullishly fighting the war against drugs (sensibilities and public freedoms) since the 1980's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Big Brother, 31 Oct 2015 @ 2:17pm

    Every human being a terrorist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cecil The Lyin, 31 Oct 2015 @ 2:40pm

    Hegel Theory

    They created the problem. You trust them to offer the solution??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    No Traitor, 1 Nov 2015 @ 11:48am

    Someday

    Some day everyone will be on their knees, begging for forgiveness. I think these treasonous dicks should be first for the hell they put everyone through.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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