AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho - Some attorneys in southeast Idaho have are claiming there have been an uptick in routine traffic stops resulting in felony charges for people with out-of-state license plates, more specifically, those from North Dakota.
We reached out to some defense attorneys across both Bannock County and Power County, and all preferred to remain anonymous, speaking off the record in order to protect their clients.
So, we turned to the Idaho Repository, which shows a district court hearing that took place two months ago, with 30 defendants standing trial. Most of them are being tried for felonies relating to drug and traffic charges.
An anonymous source tells almost all of those individuals are from North Dakota.
However, Idaho State Police said they have a strict policy against profiling vehicles before pulling them over, saying about 80% of the cars they stop have Idaho license plates.
ISP Captain Eric Dayley said that if you are caught speeding or breaking the rules of the road, you will be pulled over, regardless of where you are from.
"We have a policy on profiling that prohibits profiling and all of our traffic stops are to be based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion," Dayley said.
He added that since the start of this year, ISP has already pulled-over 223 cars, and only 14 (six percent) of those were from North Dakota.
He also added that they've had four major drug busts along the Interstate so far, and it just so happens that three out of those four were from North Dakota. The fourth is from South Dakota.
"Three out of four of our major drug cases were North Dakota plates, so yeah, someone might think we are profiling North Dakota plates, but clearly we aren't. We are stopping a wide variety of people from all different states, but primarily Idaho."
However, some attorneys are saying it's not about profiling before pulling someone over. Instead, they see the majority of those people getting searched after being pulled over.
Dayley said he trains his troopers to look for things that might seem suspicious when pulling a car over, and only then will they have probable cause to search a vehicle.
"They know to look for any indicators that don't add up or don't look right. Then you have to ask a few questions and determine a case."
He said, some signs are a little bit more obvious than others.
Such as, in the case with those caught transporting marijuana.
"That tends to be very odoriferous and you can't hide it. So it's very easy for the trooper to smell the marijuana coming out of the car."
Both the Power County Prosecutor's Office along with the Idaho ACLU said no cases have yet been filed in the area that claim ISP has been profiling based on state license plates.