Unveiling the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s Consensual Encounter
What is Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s consensual encounter tactic? I’m Tulsa attorney James Wirth, that’s the topic that we have. It’s actually coming up because of a new case out of Kansas that has determined that the Kansas Highway Patrol is violating people’s constitutional rights by doing the Kansas Two-Step, which is exactly the same as the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s consensual encounter.
So what is Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s consensual encounter? Well, essentially it is a tactic to allow a traffic stop to be delayed further to allow an investigation on something that there isn’t reasonable, articulable suspicion to investigate. So what does that mean exactly? Well, it means if they decide that they want to target you and they find a way to pull you over, while they only have a limited amount of time to detain you, under law, that’s the amount of time that it takes to write you a warning, to investigate the traffic citation, write you that warning or that ticket and give that back to you to let you go on your way.
Beyond that, that would be an unlawful detention. So how do they get around that? What they do is normally they don’t actually write you a ticket, they write you a warning. They hand it back to you, hand back your driver’s license and say you’re free to go and then within about one, two, three seconds, they are back at your door asking if they could ask you a few more questions. Now they’re gonna assert from that point forward, you consented to talk to them, that you were free to go, but you decided to go ahead and stay, just have this nice conversation. They call that a consensual encounter with law enforcement.
Understanding the Tactics
In actuality, I know from representing many people that people, under those circumstances, do not feel that they are free to go. They feel that they are still being detained even though that initial traffic stop technically ended when they gave you that warning citation. From that point forward though, they wanna ask you questions about, well, where are you coming from? Where are you going? Typically this is done at a toll booth where law enforcement, OHP particularly, is looking to target people for potential drug trafficking to where they can either find large amounts of contraband to take or where even better, they can find large amounts of money that they can take and then forfeit to the state in order to go a portion of that to law enforcement and to prosecutors. There can be big money involved in that, so there’s a lot of money put into policing that.
But in order to investigate that, they usually wanna look at pulling over people with out-of-state tags. They wanna see pulling over people with rental cars, perhaps doing racial profiling, pulling people over. Certainly, we’ve seen a lot of what appears to be racial profiling of Asians in Oklahoma since we’ve had the boom in the legal medical marijuana market. Nonetheless, from that point where they say that you are free to go, if you talk beyond that point, they’re arguing that that is consensual and is not applicable to the Fourth Amendment, but this Kansas court ruled that the Kansas Two-Step is unconstitutional and it’s a lower-level, it’s a lower-level federal court in Kansas. But when Oklahoma Highway Patrol is using those same methods, we are getting further push to push that back in Oklahoma to provide that that is unconstitutional as well.
Talk to an Attorney
So if you’re dealing with those circumstances where you were pulled over, you were free to go, and then within just a moment they’re back questioning you and asking you where your travel plans are and other things in an attempt to get you to incriminate yourself or in an attempt to establish reasonable suspicion to do a further investigation or a search of your vehicle, then you may wanna talk to an attorney about that privately and confidentially, get the legal advice applicable to your circumstances. To get that schedule with an Oklahoma traffic ticket lawyer at my office, you can go online to MakeLawEasy.com.