Spokane man alleges license-plate profiling in Idaho
A 58-year-old Spokane man said Thursday that he also was pulled over by the Idaho State Police and accused of carrying marijuana in his car, simply because he has Washington license plates and drives with his windows down.
Paul Dungan’s account of license-plate profiling, in which he claims he was detained by the ISP on Interstate 84, is similar to that of a Colorado man who has sued the agency after being stopped, detained and searched at the same rest area where I-84 crosses into Idaho from Oregon en route to Boise because of his license plates. The Idaho State Police released video of that traffic stop this week.
Unlike Idaho, both Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana. In addition, Idaho is nearly surrounded by states that permit the use of medical marijuana, which Idaho strictly forbids.
“My jaw just dropped,” Dungan said.
Dungan said the trooper asked to search his car, “and I said, ‘No, you have no right to search my car.’ ”
He told the trooper he typically drives with his windows down during the summer to help keep himself awake.
Dungan said after nearly an hour of the officer “haranguing me … he finally backed off.” Dungan wasn’t cited; he hadn’t been accused of any traffic offenses.
“I was definitely profiled,” he said. “I’m a 58-year-old white guy, and I haven’t ever been profiled. … What a horrible feeling.”
The Idaho State Police could find no record of Dungan’s stop. “I’m not saying that he’s lying at all – we just can’t find it,” ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker said.
She said the agency conducts numerous traffic stops that in the past year have yielded big drug seizures – 720 pounds of marijuana, 59 pounds of methamphetamine and 30 pounds of cocaine – just in 2013.
“There are a lot of drugs coming into the state from other states,” she said. “We are constantly patrolling the highways looking for criminal activity. … If someone breaks a traffic law, no matter how minor someone might think the traffic law is, they can be stopped.”
The Colorado man who was stopped in January 2013, Darien Roseen, of Pagosa Springs, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Idaho State Police over his stop, saying his constitutional rights were violated and he was profiled on the basis of his license plate.
Dungan read a story about Roseen’s experience in The Spokesman-Review and went back to the handwritten logs he kept for his job as a biomedical engineer for Abbot Laboratories to pinpoint the date he was stopped.
“I’m sure we’re not the only two guys that are in the states now that have legalized marijuana that those guys are harassing down there,” Dungan said. “I find it really annoying. I’ll never drive through that area again.”
At the time of his stop, Dungan was driving to hospitals throughout the West to repair and calibrate sophisticated lab equipment.
He left Spokane that morning at 6:30 on a hot summer day, he said, and was en route to a hospital in Emmett when he first saw two ISP patrol cars. “The company that I worked for really watches us, and if we’ve got tickets, we’re in trouble,” he said. “I knew I was doing the speed limit when I popped over the hill.”
Dungan said he traveled in shorts and a tank top and had his work clothes hanging in the car for the visit to the hospital; he pulled into the “Welcome to Idaho” rest area to change his clothes.
“As I pulled into the rest stop, I noticed that the state patrolman was behind me,” Dungan said. “I thought, ‘What the heck?’ ” He cruised through the rest stop, and the patrol car followed him the whole way; near the end of the parking lot, Dungan pulled in.
“By the time I got out … he had his lights on,” Dungan recalled. “He said, ‘You have Washington plates and your windows are open – I think you’re airing out your car from smoking marijuana.’ ”
Dungan’s Jeep Patriot was filled with his tools and supplies, along with his bicycle and his work clothes. “Any dummy could see that I’m a business guy traveling on work,” he said.
Dungan said he gave the trooper his business card and removed his sunglasses. He told the trooper, “Listen, you can look from there. These are my tools, these are all my parts, my bicycle. … He finally backed off on it.”
The Spokane man said he stood between his vehicle and the patrol car while he talked with the trooper. “I was there for probably at least a good half hour to 45 minutes,” he said. “He just told me that the state of Washington has legalized marijuana now and he thought that I was transporting marijuana, and he also thought I was smoking marijuana, that’s why I had the windows down.” He said, “We talked, and I was just mainly trying to convince him that you don’t need to and you’re not going to search my car.
“I understand that not all states are really excited about the legalization of marijuana,” Dungan said. “But I think for those guys to harass people just because of the state license plate is really, I don’t like it at all.”