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Colorado man files suit, Idaho State Police accused of ‘license plate profiling’

DENVER — Racial profiling is well known, but a Colorado man says the state’s new recreational marijuana law is contributing to “license plate profiling.”

Darian Roseen, a 70-year-old man from Pagosa Springs, has filed a federal civil rights law suit alleging that the Idaho State Police targeted him because of his Colorado license plates.

He claims that a trooper pulled him over and subjected him to multiple searches for marijuana simply because he had a Colorado license plate.

“Mr. Roseen is a retiree who was simply returning from his daughter’s baby shower in Washington,” said Mark Coonts, an attorney for Roseen. “I mean there was no reason to deprive him of his rights that day. There was no justification.”

According to the lawsuit, Roseen had just crossed into Idaho from Oregon on Interstate 84 in late January, when a trooper began following him into a rest stop and then turned on his lights.

“From the facts and even the video of the dash cam of the police car, the conversation turns quickly from a lane change violation to, ‘Where is your marijuana?'” Coonts said.

Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in January, law enforcement agencies in neighboring states haven’t been shy about warning drivers that they’re on the lookout.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Sergeant Stephen Townsend was among several who sat watch near the Colorado border shortly after the state began selling recreational marijuana in January.

“Troopers are always alert to criminal activity so they will still be watching for those who possess marijuana or are transporting it,” said Townsend during an interview with Fox31 in January.

But attorneys including Coonts say that troopers can’t simply be watching for Colorado license plates.

“Just because you’re from Colorado doesn’t mean that you’re automatically carrying marijuana into our state,” said Coonts who works in Idaho.

According to the lawsuit, an Idaho trooper detained Roseen but “did not allow Mr. Roseen to call an attorney and continued to accuse him of having something illegal in the vehicle.”

The trooper then allegedly searched part of the vehicle at the rest stop. Though he still didn’t find anything, he reportedly kept digging.

“Another officer came and drove Mr. Roseen’s vehicle to the sheriff’s office where a more thorough search was done by the officers,” Coonts said.

None of the searches uncovered any marijuana or other illegal activity. The trooper cited Roseen for careless driving and then let him leave.

“This isn’t a pro-marijuana case or an anti-marijuana case, this is a civil rights case,” Coonts said.

The Idaho State Patrol won’t comment on pending litigation, but a representative said they don’t pull over a motorist without just cause.

Roseen’s attorney says they haven’t heard of any other lawsuits relating to license plate profiling, but they hope that their case raises awareness for others who may have fallen victim to the practice.

27 comments

  • Dan Kiel

    I hadn’t really thought about it, but I’ll have to be careful riding my motorcycle into neighboring states. My Colorado license plate is DANK.

      • Dan Kiel

        Only from those who perceive it as such. It has nothing to do with a marijuana reference. I’ve had it for over 10 years. Now, it may become more of a problem.

    • Ann Pirie

      Dan Kiel . . . I am unable to reply to your reply to me. I wish you well in your travels. It will be very interesting to see, with that plate, if there is a difference now that marijuana is legal in Colorado.

      • Dan Kiel

        Thank you, Ann. Perhaps my plate will have an opposite effect. After all, if I were going to transport marijuana to other states, doing so with a vehicle with a DANK license plate would be a great way to draw attention to myself..

      • Ann Pirie

        I agree, Dan. Seems to me one would not call attention to doing anything wrong if they were not doing anything wrong. I would be fascinated to learn whether you have any problems or not if you think of it, which I am sure you will, if you do have problems. Good luck.

  • Ben Abeyta

    The officers were in the wrong for continuing to demand where his drugs were. That’s a given. They were also in the wrong for detaining him as long as they did and even having one get into his personal vehicle and drive it to the police station. His rights were obviously violated.

    This is an example though, of what is going to happen when your state does something foolish and semi-legalizes a drug.

    • Hank Pace

      “Foolish and semi-legalizes a drug”

      1) It’s not “semi-legal”, it’s completely legal in our Progressive State

      (if you know history at all Colorado was also one of the first states to Repeal Alcohol Prohibition)

      2) Research “How Cannabis became Marijuana”. Until then your opinion of “Foolish” is uneducated, uninformed and depicts your lack of knowledge on the subject.

      • Scott Montgomery

        I believe Fort Collins went dry in about 1969 but that’s just where I live. Progressive state? True, unfortunately. More and more intolerant by the day as witnessed by the other Colorado democrat mass murder next to the Columbine boys, oh yeah, they were just raised by democrats. Then there’s Chucky Cheese and the Governor.

    • Robert Gift

      ^ [supposed] [lawsuit]

      Having already pulled you over for the initial infraction, I believe that they can have suspicions and may do further investigation.

      If no infraction of any kind can be found: ie: moving violation, cracked windshield, lamp filament burned out, loose license plate, etc., I believe that they cannot pull you over merely on suspicion that you are transporting drugs.

      • cobobbles

        The initial alleged infraction is called a “pretext” to make contact. The point is you never give up your rights and consent to a search whether you’re carrying something illegal or not. If you don’t consent to a search you force the police to get a search warrant and justify it in court then when they don’t find anything you have a leg to stand on. If you consent to a search you give up your rights. Did you notice the story changed from a lane change violation to a careless driving citation? Doesn’t make much sense does it? That’s because the ISP covered their arses with a ridiculous citation.

  • Ann Pirie

    Indeed, do not maneuver a traffic infraction, and you will be good to go. I wish everyone knew they were supposed to use a turn signal to enter traffic from a parking space and when switching lanes!

  • beauregard

    Remember, you are seeing exactly half of the story. The half from the motorist and his paid attorney. I think something beyond just the CO plate arose the Troopers suspicions. We won’t hear that side of the story here.

  • Allison Ekstrom

    It is true that cannot pull you over on suspicion. They must pull you over for a traffic infraction and then have some sort of probable cause to search your vehicle. Being from Colorado is not probable cause. And every driver has a right to refuse a vehicle search. Now if you have something like drugs, weapons, what have you in clear sight then they don’t need a warrant. Even if you’ve not done anything wrong always always, ALWAYS refuse a vehicle search. I’ve always told everyone you never ever wave your rights with law enforcement. Whether it be a search, interrogation, or arrest. You just don’t do it because then you start to lose an legal legs you had to stand on if they do something wrong.

  • SpamFace Plant

    On a bike with CO plates and headed for ride out of state, say heading to South Dakota for the rally. Expect this from Wyoming troopers. Been going on with CO plated vehicles since passage. And it isn’t just bikes…See plenty of CO cars getting field stripped!!!

  • Kat Liberti

    So as I read through these comments I was shocked at how no one seems to truly know their constitutional rights. When you get pulled over, you are not obligated to answer any questions other than “Do you know why I pulled you over?” and “Can I see your License and Registration?” Also, you are not obligated to roll your window completely down. 1 to 2 inches is more than sufficient. This is because a cop can put his hands on your door, preventing you from rolling up your window, stick his head into your car and look around or sniff. This is where they make their case for asking you to get out of your vehicle to further interrogate and search you. The only information they can take from you is: confirmation of having proof or no proof of insurance, a legally registered vehicle, and from your ID, only your name and address. They are not allowed to ask for your phone number or SSN. Also, they must legally provide proof in about 3 forms, of identification. Just remember boys and girls, any Joe Q. Doe can go to an Army Surplus store or cop shop and pick up uniforms, badges, etc. Keep in mind… cops have to have concrete evidence (not circumstantial) of a commission of a crime. That means a complaining party, and proof that you had intent to cause damage or harm to others.

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