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.