Lawsuit charges ISP with ‘license plate profiling’ for drug search
BOISE - A federal lawsuit against the Idaho State Police charges that officers profiled and detained a 69-year-old former Weyerhaeuser executive simply because he had Colorado license plates on his truck.
ISP officers insisted the man, a Washington resident who has homes in both Washington and Colorado, must be carrying marijuana. Extensive searches of his vehicle found nothing illegal, however.
Darien Roseen was on the way to Colorado from his daughter’s baby shower in Washington and had just crossed into Idaho, according to the lawsuit. Within the first mile, he was targeted by ISP Trooper Justin Klitch, who pursued him as Roseen pulled into the “Welcome to Idaho” rest area, the suit said. The trooper wouldn’t let Roseen use the bathroom and began badgering him to consent to a search of his vehicle – which Roseen refused, it said. This happened just before noon on Jan. 25.
By the time the incident was over, Klitch had called in additional officers, detained Roseen in a patrol car, had an officer drive Roseen’s truck – without his permission – to the Payette County Sheriff’s Department, where it was further searched, and held up Roseen for hours.
“This driver was singled out because of the fact that he had a Colorado plate,” said Roseen’s Boise attorney, Mark Coonts.
The lawsuit names the ISP, the Fruitland Police Department, the Payette County Sheriff’s Department and the numerous officers involved. It alleges violations of the Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution regarding illegal search and seizure, along with discriminatory and selective treatment by profiling, violating the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment and Roseen’s right to interstate travel.
“Trooper Klitch profiled, followed, and pulled over the vehicle driven by Mr. Roseen because it had Colorado license plates,” the lawsuit states. “Upon learning that Mr. Roseen came from Washington, Trooper Klitch further profiled Mr. Roseen. Trooper Klitch assumed and alleged that Mr. Roseen was a person who was transporting marijuana based on his states of residence.”
Both Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana; Idaho has not. The ISP has been reporting numerous big marijuana busts in recent months along I-84, a main route of travel between the states.
ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker said, “Our command staff is reviewing this incident.” She said the ISP has not yet been officially served with the lawsuit.
Coonts said Roseen, a retired vice president of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate, was the victim of “license-plate profiling.”
“Assuming guilt based on a license plate – that’s just a violation of our civil rights,” Coonts said. “People should be able to travel interstate highways without being harassed and possibly unlawfully detained because of a particular license plate.”
Coonts said his law office has been receiving emails from others alleging similar incidents in Idaho. “This is, we feel, a civil rights issue,” he said. “It’s not a political issue about people’s particular ideas about marijuana.”
In the ISP’s official incident report, obtained Monday by The Spokesman-Review under the Idaho Public Records law, Klitch wrote that he observed that Roseen’s eyes were glassy and “his hands were shaking uncontrollably as if he were extremely nervous.” He wrote, “I informed Roseen his behavior was consistent with someone who had illegal items in their vehicle.”
He told Roseen he planned to call for a drug dog, and “he indicated that was fine and that I wouldn’t find anything.” Then, after Klitch urged Roseen to open a sub-trunk compartment under his pickup truck’s bed – because the officer knew “from prior experience” that the Honda Ridgeline truck had such a compartment – Roseen eventually agreed. Klitch said at that point he smelled the odor of marijuana.
The lawsuit says no one else smelled such an odor, and it was raining, windy and snowy at the time. The incident report says when Klitch told Roseen he smelled an odor of marijuana, Roseen “acted as if he were shocked.”