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Wyoming Highway Patrol...Too Much Time on Their Hands
A Frustrated Driver's Saga
I have the utmost respect for law enforcement. My husband is a retired police officer with over 23 years on the force, so before I begin my gripe, let me just make that crystal clear. However, I do not have much love for the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
In August, my son and I drove up to Minnesota in my Jeep Grand Cherokee. After a lovely visit to the Midwest, it was time to drive home to Nevada, and though the weather was pretty awful during the drive, overall the drive was uneventful. That is...until I hit Cheyenne, Wyoming. I was driving the posted speed limit, it was raining, and I was quietly longing to get home and out of my car and just be done with the roadtrip at this point, but suddenly in my mirror I caught the red and blue lights of a Highway Patrol car. My son thought it was hysterical, but I assured him I wasn't speeding, and had no clue why I was being pulled over. I see the short, stocky patrolman walk up to the passenger window as I sat there perplexed over what this was about. It was like a movie, "M'am, do you know why I stopped you today?" I told him I had absolutely no idea, and then the aggravation began. "Well, you only have one license plate, I need your license and registration and insurance, please."
One license plate? This is what you stopped me for???
So I smile, and said to this lovely gentleman, "I am from Nevada, we don't have to have two plates," thinking that would be the end of this. Wrong! Trooper "Wyoming" advised me that as an officer of the Wyoming Highway Patrol he was in fact able to cite me for driving with one plate because, according to his law enforcement bible, the AAA manual, Nevada required two license plates. Now, at first I thought he was joking. I mean, what cops use the AAA as their legal resource? He wasn't joking. Here he was in the pouring rain, stopping this mom in a Grand Cherokee for not having a front plate. Again, I inform the trooper that my car doesn't even have a bracket or holes for a front plate and he sternly answers, "I guess you best get to Auto Zone and get one." Huh???
So while he is running my ID through NCIC my son calls my husband on the cell phone, laughing the whole time. The trooper walks back over to my car and hands me my ID and registration, and hands me a blue warning ticket. He informs me that he could have given me a ticket but he just gave me a warning this time. So being the wife of a retired cop, I say to this robocop, "You know, my husband was a police officer for 23 years and he drives my car all the time. Don't you think he would know the laws of Nevada?" His response, "Obviously he doesn't." He then goes on to tell me that I am driving the type of car that drug runners use on Wyoming highways. A Jeep Grand Cherokee...who would have thought!
As soon as I was out of view from the trooper, heading out of Wyoming, I called my husband who was furious. He was ranting and raving about how the WHP had no right to enforce the laws of another state, etc etc. I knew this issue was not over.
After I was home for a day I decided to call the Wyoming HIghway Patrol to discuss this. I had done my research online and found on the Nevada DMV that we do NOT have to have two plates if our car does not have a mount for a front plate. Problem solved. I called the main administration number at WHP and asked to speak to a supervisor, and they got me a lieutenant. This was the direct supervisor of Trooper "Wyoming." I explained to him what happened, how my husband was a retired law enforcement officer and how his officer was wrong and how absurd it was to quote the AAA manual as the laws of the highway. Imagine my surprise when he told me that I was the one who was wrong. He now brings up the AAA manual again, and I advised him to go to www.dmvnv.com and he can see for himself that we do not have to display a front plate in Nevada. Still, he argues, and he then informs me that as a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper they CAN enforce the laws of other states. As an example, he tells me he can ticket Colorado drivers if their window tint is too dark because Colorado has certain requirements about tint percentage. While Colorado may in fact have laws regarding window tint, I know that law enforcement does not have the ability to enforce the laws of other states in their own states. The Lieutenant gets very testy with me and lets me know that I am incorrect. Apparently the troopers of the WHP can police the laws of all states and all environments. So in parting, I told him that I would make sure that I avoid the state of Wyoming on my next road trip because it is clear that their officers have way too much time on their hands if they stop people from other states for not displaying a front plate on their car.
Granted, I did not receive a ticket in Wyoming, just a warning. According to attorneys I have spoken to in Nevada, this traffic stop was actually a violation of my civil rights. The WHP had no probable cause to stop my car and I was detained after there was no reason to stop me. The reason I am writing this article is to let others know that this kind of stuff can happen on an innocent road trip. I was wearing my seatbelt, I wasn't speeding, I was simply driving home to Nevada. There was no reason for this traffic stop, and I suppose that others have shared my frustration on road trips. If so, I would love to hear from you.