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Thursday, December 13, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Marijuana license-plate profiling case dropped

A discrimination case against the Idaho State Police for targeting a driver for a marijuana search because his license plates were from a state that has legalized the drug has been dismissed at the request of both sides, after it ran into numerous legal hurdles. That means the court won’t weigh in on license-plate profiling in this case. But a legal expert says Darien Roseen’s lawsuit, the release of the state trooper’s dash-cam video under the Idaho Public Records Law, and the subsequent national attention it drew helped shine a light on the practice that may cause law enforcement agencies to take more care, and stick to “more traditional probable cause or observed infraction findings.”

David Leroy, former Idaho attorney general and now a Boise defense attorney, said, “The lawsuit may have served its purpose without going to conclusion.”

Roseen, then a 69-year-old retired Weyerhaeuser executive who was driving from his daughter’s baby shower in Washington to his second home in Colorado, was followed by an ISP trooper within a mile after he crossed the Idaho border on I-84 from Oregon on a snowy day in January of 2013; he had Colorado license plates. When Roseen pulled into the “Welcome to Idaho” rest area, Trooper Justin Klitch followed him and insisted he must have marijuana in his vehicle. Roseen was detained and his vehicle searched for hours before he was allowed to go; nothing illegal was found.

You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and also find links to a clip from the video. Unlike Idaho, Washington, Colorado and Oregon all have legalized marijuana. Plus, numerous states surrounding Idaho permit the use of medical marijuana, which Idaho strictly forbids.

After the lawsuit was filed, a Spokane man told the Spokesman-Review he endured a similar detention at the same rest stop when he was driving with Washington license plates, with an ISP trooper demanding to search his car for marijuana. He refused, and eventually was allowed to leave. Roseen’s Boise lawyer, Eric Swartz, said he received numerous calls and emails from others with similar stories. But he was unavailable for comment Wednesday, after his client and the state both agreed to drop the case, with each side bearing its own costs and attorney fees.

The state hired a private law firm to handle the case and had paid it more than $50,000 as of May 15, according to records obtained under the Idaho Public Records Law. If Roseen continued his case but lost, he could have been ordered to pay the state's legal fees and costs as well as his own.

“It does point out that both civil and criminal litigation against the state or other police departments is typically conducted at considerable expense to the private parties who are bringing or defending that litigation,” Leroy said. “And the price of justice or defending oneself from injustice can be so high that sometimes the best interests of society are not vigorously prosecuted.”




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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