PARK CITY (AP) — A defense attorney claims the Utah Highway Patrol profiles cars with out-of-state license plates on I-80.
Attorney Gerry D'Elia has filed a claim in 3rd District Court, saying eastbound vehicles with out-of-state plates are pulled over much more often than local drivers in Summit County.
D'Elia calls it "selective enforcement" that is "unconstitutional and illegal." D'Elia says evidence garnered from such stops led to his clients' arrest and should not be allowed in court.
But the patrol has no plans to change how it monitors traffic on I-80, a major cross-country artery in the illegal business of transporting drugs.
UHP spokesman Sgt. Jeff Nigbur said troopers specifically trained in drug interdiction look for certain indicators common to drug traffickers when a vehicle is pulled over for an infraction. Troopers also talk to drivers before making the decision and are allowed to do so only when there is probable cause.
Summit County Attorney David Brickey said his office has been successfully prosecuting drug smuggling cases for many years — regardless of what state is on the suspected smuggler's license plate.
"Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that cars from out of state have special protections," he said. "These are legitimate stops of people who are simply muling drugs from (one) location to another as a means to make a living."
Oral arguments for D'Elia's profiling claim are scheduled for Dec. 15.
In his motion, D'Elia cited dispatch logs from Nov. 14-16. According to D'Elia, 136 of 144 traffic stops — 94 percent — were of vehicles with out-of-state plates, when the vast majority on the road have Utah plates.
"In order to make the exercise most efficient, yielding the most arrests, it appears rather elementary and obvious that out-of-state plates must be targeted" by the patrol, D'Elia contended.