DENVER — The City of Loveland will pay a man $35,000 after police handcuffed him and searched his car without permission while claiming to smell marijuana during a traffic stop.
No drugs were found in the search of David Kramer’s vehicle on July 4, 2011. Kramer has said that he was simply driving to pick up mail at his post office box about 10:30 p.m.
In a letter to Loveland Police, the American Civil Liberties Union said that police improperly searched Kramer’s person and car, even going so far as to call in a drug-sniffing dog. Kramer was allegedly held in handcuffs for more than an hour while police went over his car multiple times before eventually freeing him without charge.
Police initially became suspicious when Kramer couldn’t present his driver’s license and other documentation because he kept them in the trunk of his vehicle. Police did locate the items there, but allegedly accused Kramer of lying about what he was doing and continued a fruitless search of the car, as well as Kramer’s clothing.
The ACLU asserted that officers lied about smelling marijuana as an excuse to detain Kramer.
“The courts have said that a smell of marijuana is probable cause for a search, and unscrupulous cops know that they can usually get away with falsely claiming to smell pot,” ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said in a news release. “In this case, however, we were prepared to prove that the officer fabricated his claim of smelling marijuana to justify and to cover up an unreasonable search that violated Mr. Kramer’s rights.”
Loveland police emphasized that they do not admit any liability in the case. The financial settlement is simply “an economic decision … to save taxpayers the expenses associated with the cost to defend possible litigation,” the department said in a media release.
However, an internal review did identify “specific performance deficiencies and policy violations,” the department said.