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Colorado driver profiled, searched for marijuana over having Colorado license plates

Sunday, April 27, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Colorado driverlicense platesmarijuana

A Colorado resident has filed suit against an Idaho police department, alleging that he was profiled by cops during a road trip through the state last year because of his license plate.

The suit, filed by Darien Roseen recently, comes more than a year after he says he was unlawfully detained and searched for marijuana simply on the basis of his Colorado plates, in what his attorney is calling "license-plate profiling," The Denver Post reported.

Mark Coonts, one of three attorneys in the case, said Roseen, 69, was eventually cleared after local law enforcement officers in Payette County, Idaho, detained him for hours and searched his Honda Ridgeline pickup truck after allegedly smelling pot in the vehicle.

"Assuming guilt based on a license plate -- that's just a violation of our civil rights," Coonts said.

As reported by the Post:

Roseen, retired vice president of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate -- an arm of the forest-products company worth $16.5 billion, according to Forbes -- was searched Jan. 25, 2013, on the way from his daughter's baby shower in Washington state to his second home in Pagosa Springs.

At the time, medical marijuana was legal in the District of Columbia and 18 states, including Colorado. The state of Washington and Colorado had recently passed state laws that would allow sales of recreational marijuana, but it would be a year before recreational pot would be available.

Stopped for the flimsiest of reasons

After traveling just inside the Idaho border at around 11:40 a.m. on the day he was detained, Roseen pulled off of Interstate 84 to use the restroom at a roadside rest area, says the complaint, which seeks a jury trial. Just before pulling into the rest area, the complaint says, Roseen passed an Idaho State Police trooper who was parked in the median of the interstate.

The troop, Justin Klitch -- listed as the first defendant in the suit -- pulled onto the interstate and followed Roseen into the rest stop. There, he turned on his emergency lights and walked up to the parked pickup truck.

The complaint says Klitch followed Roseen simply because of his Colorado license plates, which ostensibly led the trooper to believe that Roseen must be transporting illegal substances.

Initially, Klitch did not provide Roseen a reason for contacting him, but he eventually said that the Coloradoan failed to signal before he exited into the rest area, and that he came in contact with two curbs at the rest stop.

Roseen says he did signal before exiting and added that he could not make out the curbs because they were hidden under snow. He also said the emergency lights on the trooper's vehicle distracted him when he "suddenly appeared behind him," says the complaint.

The suit says that Klitch rejected Roseen's reason for leaving the interstate -- that he had to use the bathroom -- and instead insisted that Roseen was trying to avoid him. At that point, Klitch asked Roseen why his eyes looked glassy and then accused him of transporting something "that he should not have in his vehicle," according to the complaint.

'There's nothing there'

Roseen said he was in possession of valid prescription medications. The suit says that Klitch then asked Roseen when the last time was that he used marijuana.

"He was offended by his treatment -- assuming that not only was he a user but that he was carrying marijuana into Idaho just based on the fact that he has Colorado license plates," Coonts said.

Roseen insisted he does not use, and has never used, marijuana. After that, Roseen said in his complaint that he refused Klitch's request to search his vehicle three times. Nevertheless, he said he opened up a few areas of the vehicle "if it was going to get him back on the road faster," says the complaint.

Roseen says he never smelled the odor that Klitch claimed he detected. But nevertheless, Klitch used it as an excuse to claim probable cause; he hauled Roseen to the local sheriff's office and had his truck impounded.

"He didn't go right out and say 'Where's the weed, old man?'" Coonts said. "But the whole interaction was just, 'Give me the weed, I know it's here.'"

At the sheriff's office, Roseen was allowed to use the bathroom under supervision. He was then told that he was free to go but that his truck had to remain behind because officers were not finished searching it. Klitch did issue Roseen a citation for careless driving, but that has since been resolved.

Klitch, Christensen and at least six other officers searched the vehicle. The search turned up no illegal substances, Coonts and the complaint said. Roseen's lawsuit seeks general and punitive damages.


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