Boise, Idaho (CBS SEATTLE) — An Idaho state trooper arrested and fully searched a 70-year-old Washington man’s vehicle solely because he had a Colorado license plate – a state where marijuana is legal – a federal “license plate profiling” lawsuit alleges.
Darien Roseen was driving along I-84 between his second home in Colorado and Washington state on Jan. 25 when Idaho State Trooper Justin Klitch “immediately” pulled out from the Interstate median and began “rapidly accelerating” to catch up to Roseen, according to court documents. Exiting at a designated rest area, Roseen says he became “uncomfortable” that Klitch had followed him though he had not “done anything wrong.”
After pulling Roseen over, Klitch reportedly failed to explain why he made the stop, although he later said he made the stop because Roseen failed to use his signal when pulling off on the exit, and because he bumped the curb. Klitch rejected Roseen’s reason for pulling into the rest area, telling him, “You didn’t have to go to the bathroom before you saw me … I’m telling you, you pulled in here to avoid me.”
The complaint, continued from Courthouse News Service, states that Klitch asked Roseen why his eyes “appeared glassy,” while failing to ask him for his proof of insurance, registration, or returning to his vehicle to verify Roseen’s license. He then accused Roseen of “having something in his vehicle that he should not have.”
“After Mr. Roseen identified his possession of valid prescription medications, Trooper Klitch asked him, ‘When is the last time you used any marijuana?’ thereby assuming that Mr. Roseen had, in fact, used marijuana and inferring that he had used it recently,” according to the complaint.
Klitch repeatedly asked to search Roseen’s vehicle as he accused him of “hiding” something. And when Roseen did not grant him permission, Klitch threatened to bring in a drug-sniffing dog and characterized Roseen’s behavior as “consistent with a person who was hiding something illegal.”
Finally consenting to a search of “parts” of the vehicle to get “back on the road faster,” Roseen says that this proved to be a mistake.
“When Mr. Roseen opened the trunk compartment, and despite the strong gusts of wind and precipitation that day, Trooper Klitch claimed he could smell the odor of marijuana,” the complaint states. “Mr. Roseen stated that he could not smell the odor of marijuana that Trooper Klitch claimed to be coming from the trunk compartment.”
Calling in an additional police officer, Klitch said the aroma gave him cause to search the entire vehicle, and Roseen was detained in the back of Klitch’s vehicle, but was told he was not under arrest despite having been read his Miranda rights.
The second officer drove Roseen’s Honda Ridgeline to the Payette County Sheriff’s sally port although Roseen states that he never gave the officer permission to drive his vehicle and the car’s items were not inventoried.
The ensuing search of the vehicle by multiple unidentified officers found nothing and Roseen was issued a citation for “inattentive/careless” driving.
Roseen’s federal lawsuit seeking punitive damages alleges that Klitch, the second officer Christensen, Payette County Sheriff’s Deputy Webster (first names unlisted), and the Idaho State Police violated his Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendment Rights and claims the search of his car was unjustified.
“At no point did Trooper Klitch’s line of questioning relate to Mr. Roseen’s alleged improper driving pattern,” the complaint states. “Instead, Trooper Klitch immediately accused Mr. Roseen of transporting something illegal.”
Roseen’s attorney, Mark Coonts, told Courthouse News that his client’s constitutional rights were given no regard.
“We believe that Americans should be able to travel interstate highways without being harassed and unlawfully detained because of license-plate profiling,” said Coonts. “Our client, Mr. Roseen, is a 70-year-old retiree who was returning from his daughter’s baby shower. He was stopped in Idaho and deprived of his constitutional rights because he was driving a car with a license plate from a state that ISP associated with marijuana.”
Idaho State Police spokeswoman Teresa Baker told Courthouse News she is unable to comment on the legal proceeding.
Update: Dashboard camera footage of the incident in its entirety.
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