Citizen Files Lawsuit Alleging Police Stopped And Unlawfully Searched His Vehicle For Marijuana Based On Colorado License Plate

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Idaho State Police Shoulder PatchAccording to Courthouse News an Idaho state trooper arrested and searched a 70-year-old Washington man solely because of his license plate from Colorado, where marijuana is legal, the man claims in a federal lawsuit.

Darien Roseen lives in Washington and has a second home in Colorado. He was driving east on I-84 the morning of Jan. 25, 2013, and had just crossed the Idaho-Oregon Border, when he passed Idaho State Police Trooper Justin Klitch, who was in the median observing eastbound traffic. “Immediately after Mr. Roseen passed his location, Trooper Klitch pulled out from the Interstate median, rapidly accelerating to catch up with Mr. Roseen’s vehicle,” according to the 25-page complaint. Roseen, who is retired from Weyerhauser, says he changed from the right lane to the left, and exited the Interstate to a designated rest area. Klitch followed him to the parking lot, which Roseen says made him “uncomfortable,” though “he did not perceive that he had done anything wrong.”

Roseen claims that Klitch’s presence, high winds, precipitation and snow-covered ground, caused him to bump the curb when he parked his Honda Ridgeline. That’s when Klitch turned on his overhead lights.

The Pretext

Colorado License PlateAccording to the complaint, Klitch did not immediately explain why he “pursued and initiated” contact, but later said he made the traffic stop based on Roseen’s failure to use his signal while exiting the interstate and because he bumped into the curb. “Trooper Klitch rejected Mr. Roseen’s reason for pulling into the rest area – that he had to use the bathroom,” the complaint states. With astounding insight into Roseen’s internal organs, “Trooper Klitch stated, ‘You didn’t have to go to the bathroom before you saw me. … I’m telling you, you pulled in here to avoid me. That’s exactly what you did,'” the complaint states.

Klitch then asked Roseen why his eyes “appeared glassy” and accused him of “having something in his vehicle that he should not have.” Roseen said Klitch asked to see his driver’s license, but never asked for his proof of insurance or registration, and did not immediately go back to his vehicle verify the license. After Mr. Roseen identified his possession of valid prescription medications, Trooper Klitch asked him, ‘When is the last time you used any marijuana?’ thereby assuming that Mr. Roseen had, in fact, used marijuana and inferring that he had used it recently,” according to the complaint. Klitch repeatedly asked to search the car while continuing to question Roseen about what he was “hiding.” Roseen did not give him permission, causing Klitch to characterize his behavior as “consistent with a person who was hiding something illegal.”

Klitch threatened to bring in a drug-sniffing dog, but never followed through. Roseen finally consented to a search of “parts” of the vehicle, if “it got him back on the road faster” and began unpacking its contents, some of which consisted of presents from his daughter’s baby shower. Meanwhile, Klitch ran a background check, and Roseen came up clean.

The Search

Colorado Horse PlateGiving Klitch permission to search his vehicle, however, proved to be a mistake, Roseen says. “When Mr. Roseen opened the trunk compartment, and despite the strong gusts of wind and precipitation that day, Trooper Klitch claimed he could smell the odor of marijuana,” the complaint states. “Mr. Roseen stated that he could not smell the odor of marijuana that Trooper Klitch claimed to be coming from the trunk compartment.” Klitch said the putative aroma gave him probable cause to search the entire vehicle and called in a Fruitland City Police Officer Christensen.

Roseen was detained in the back of Klitch’s car, but was told he was not under arrest despite being read his Miranda rights. Christensen drove the Ridgeline to the Payette County Sheriff’s sallyport, where they continued searching the vehicle. Roseen says he never gave the officer permission to drive his car and its contents were not inventoried. A handful of unidentified officers combed through the car and after finding nothing, Klitch issued Roseen a citation for “inattentive/careless” driving.

Roseen sued Klitch, Christensen, Payette County Sheriff’s Deputy Webster and the Idaho State Police in Federal Court, alleging violations of his Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights. “At no point did Trooper Klitch’s line of questioning relate to Mr. Roseen’s alleged improper driving pattern,” the complaint states. “Instead, Trooper Klitch immediately accused Mr. Roseen of transporting something illegal.” He says that Klitch’s alleged whiff of weed was not enough to justify searching his car. “Trooper Klitch lacked sufficient probable cause to shift the primary purpose of the stop from a traffic stop to a narcotics investigation,” the complaint states. “As such, Trooper Klitch was not justified in continuing Mr. Roseen’s detention beyond the time necessary to effectuate the purpose of the original traffic stop.” Roseen claims that at one point Klitch’s patrol car camera was turned off.

Colorado Share Road PlateIdaho State Police spokeswoman Teresa Baker told Courthouse News the department is not “able to comment on this case since it is in fact a legal proceeding.” Roseen’s attorney, Mark Coonts, said that he “cannot speculate or guess as to what is typical or normal about this situation.” “We believe that Americans should be able to travel interstate highways without being harassed and unlawfully detained because of license-plate profiling. Our client, Mr. Roseen, is a 70-year-old retiree who was returning from his daughter’s baby shower. He was stopped in Idaho and deprived of his constitutional rights because he was driving a car with a license plate from a state that ISP associated with marijuana,” Coonts said. Roseen seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations.

What is concerning on many levels is the amount of alleged prejudice on behalf of Trooper Klitch and others. Based upon the facts stated by Mr. Roseen, it is difficult to imagine this was a bona fide traffic stop but what is more evident is one of wanting to search and making up the probable cause as an afterthought. In this case it might seem to some the trooper was so convinced that marijuana would be found he was willing to bet his and his department’s pocketbooks that he would be correct in the end. It shows very shallow thinking and gung-ho attitude.

Colorado Education PlateWhile not trying to diminish Mr. Roseen’s certainly bad experiences here, this is a textbook example of law enforcement officers drumming up something petty and the situation mushrooming quickly into a federal case. Attention Rookies of the world: This is most certainly the wrong way to do things. Save yourselves and everyone around you the heartache. Don’t partake in career limiting moves such as this.

By Darren Smith


Courthouse News Service
Colorado Department of Revenue (plate images)

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

40 thoughts on “Citizen Files Lawsuit Alleging Police Stopped And Unlawfully Searched His Vehicle For Marijuana Based On Colorado License Plate

  1. Trooper Klitch knows he can violate citizen’s constructional rights 100 times and get away with it. Most citizens to not have the where with all to hire an attorney and file a federal lawsuit to prove their constitutional rights have been violated. Fortunately the trooper finally messed with the wrong citizen. Once again this proves only people with money really have constitutional rights.

  2. Marijuana busts must look good on an officer’s fitness report and or the department’s crime figures. The amount of time and money spent on enforcing laws on something no more harmful than alcohol is ridiculous. Legalize marijuana, tax it and then move on to something that falls under the general guidelines of “To Serve and Protect.”

  3. I certainly hope that this will actually harm the troopers career, otherwise he and others will not learn anything from this. If they do not suffer some penalty in the form of a successful lawsuit or departmental sanctions, our Constitutional rights will be gone for the rest of us.

  4. Have to agree with you…when officers start losing their jobs and departments start losing law suits then maybe some of these civil rights abuses will start to decline. At least I hope so.

  5. I had a similar thing happen to me shortly after the 911 attacks. I was using National Airport as a shortcut to get from Alexandria (Virginia) to my home in Arlington. I was pulled over by an airport policeman who asked for my license. He asked me to open my trunk. I refused, stating that he required a search warrant, probable cause or his observation of me commuting a crime. He asked me to open my trunk again. I told him I wanted to speak with his supervisor, who arrived shortly thereafter. I explained my position to him. His reply was the Nuremburg defense-following orders. I relented but harangued them for violating my rights. I called the ACLU (I’m a supporter) to report the incident. The airport cops stopped this practice.
    The only way we stop the violation of our civil rights by police is to hold them accountable for their actions.

  6. Power corrupts absolutely – we can all remember from our first remembrances how anyone with the ability to shove us around WILL do that just because they CAN – it is a human thing – the cops SHOULD be above it and be TRAINED to recognize their own stupid behavior which ONLY makes the rest of us hate them – I have met a FEW polite, civil cops over the years but MOST of them have a terrible ego problem – plenty of people have been scapegoated and even gone to jail because of this situation.
    Humans – sometimes I really despise them !!!

  7. Similar things happen to young or minority people in every state, every day, and it only becomes news when someone with enough power to hire a competent attorney gets arrested. It really is tragic. I hope our national attitude on police power begins to swing back towards respecting individuals and civil rights.

  8. I’ve written previously that I could see neighboring state cops pulling this shit. They love low hanging fruit and hate losing those easy pot busts.

  9. There is another side to this. I was stopped for speeding by a DPS trooper, and he asked if I was in a hurry for some reason. I replied that I had some hot Whataburgers that I needed to get home ASAP. He smiled and did not think that was a good reason for my speeding. So he asked for my license, etc.. and I got out and talked with him as he wrote out the ticket. While getting a ticket is not a pleasant experience under any condition, I have to say, he was professional and I almost enjoyed talking with him under the circumstances.

    He was so good that I felt that since I publicly criticize cops for their misdeeds and excesses, that I should post on our local boards his name and his professional conduct. I think that if more folks would reward good cops who do their jobs properly that the bad ones might start to look at how they should do their jobs. This is a two way street and if you only cuss at bad cops, it makes others think that doing the job right has no rewards.

  10. This is analogous to companies which pay of fraudulent civil suits because it’s cheaper to settle than to fight them. Until more people and institutions start standing up for what is right these incidents will just continue. How many other people had this officer and his friends illegally searched before this gentleman decided to take action against them.

  11. randy, I know cops and how they think quite well. I know how to interact w/ them and virtually never have a problem. It requires true self esteem, making yourself very compliant and submissive. I have taught my kids and I taught my students how to act. When you know how to act you have few problems. The problem is so few folks in our culture have true self esteem and have a real problem, w/ “yes, sir; no, sir, thank you, sir.” It doesn’t take much more than that. Of course, the real test will be when I’m pulled over by a female cop. Because, I’ve been told by experts I have a real problem w/ strong women.

  12. The right to travel is a part of the “liberty” of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment … how deeply engrained in our history this freedom of movement is. Freedom of movement across frontiers in either direction, and inside frontiers as well, was a part of our heritage. Travel abroad, like travel within the country, may be necessary for a livelihood. It may be as close to the heart of the individual as the choice of what he eats, or wears, or reads. Freedom of movement is basic in our scheme of values … every American is left to shape his own life as he thinks best, do what he pleases, go where he pleases. Freedom of movement also has large social values.” Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 125 (1958)

  13. The federal statute which creates and authorizes the lawsuit against the bad cops here also has a provision which provides for the award of a judgment against all defendants for the hourly attorney fees rung up by plaintiff’s lawyer. New lawyers trying to make a living doing divorces and bankruptcies need to explore this arena. In the Eastern District of Missouri recently this hourly rate for a certain qualified lawyer was set at $450.00. That is per hour. So, a poor man can hire a good lawyer if poor man has a strong case. A municipality which hires a cop who does wrong can be sued but not the state which hires a state trooper because states have sovereign immunity. Google 42 United States Code sections 1983, 1985 (conspiracy) and 1988 (attorney fees).

  14. Very interesting Darren. I am amazed that police are still using these pretexts to get the big score and find some drugs! Just imagine how much money the country could save if we ended the war on drugs.

  15. PaulRevereWear,

    … A municipality which hires a cop who does wrong can be sued but not the state which hires a state trooper because states have sovereign immunity.
    Anybody can sue anyone for any reason at any time.

    But can they win?

    That is where the rubber meets the road.

    The issue you misstate derives from confusing the 11th Amendment with the word “person” in the statute you cite to:

    Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia …

    (42 USC § 1983). The first inquiry a court will go through is whether the defendant you sue is a “person.”

    Municipalities are persons for some purposes of that statute, but not for other purposes. Monell v. Department of Soc. Svcs. – 436 US 658 (1978).

    The 11th Amendment immunity which you allude to is that a state cannot be sued in federal court without its consent.

    One can sue the state in state court even when the state does not agree to be sued in federal court.

    But the real problem is that a state is not a “person” under the statute in question.

    So the state court or a federal court would dismiss the part of a case that makes the state a party.

    The initial key in pleading a § 1983 case is to know what the meaning of “person” is, and next what “under color of state law” means.

    Officials of state agencies can be sued in federal or state court, because such an individual is not “the state” under that statute.

    The next important thing to know is what federal right was violated.

    Thus, a “person” must be sued, who, acting under “color of state law”, violated a “federal right.”

    All the terms of art for those three must be well known or any litigant can end up with a dismissed case very early on.

  16. We have discussed this matter before. Unless money comes directly out of the pocket of the cop this behavior is not going to change. States need to lift the immunity they give cops and other government officials.

  17. Paul Schulte

    We have discussed this matter before. Unless money comes directly out of the pocket of the cop this behavior is not going to change. States need to lift the immunity they give cops and other government officials.
    As we discussed, states cannot give cops immunity from the type of case blogged about in other posts and in this one.

    Any immunity under 42 USC § 1983 is entirely a matter of federal, not state law or action.

  18. For the camera, “Hello Officer Abcdef, badge number 1234. Here is my license and registration and I invoke my right to remain silent.” And then remain silent!
    ALWAYS record the police and NEVER consent to searches.

  19. Dredd – in my state you can file in the state courts for this but there is state immunity. This is a states’ rights issue. You seem to take the position that it can only be heard in federal court, but not in my state. Besides, payment is made by the insurer for the township, county, city, etc. rather than the individual. I want the immunity stripped by the state and then for your sake by the feds. God, can you just imagine the legal carnage. :)

  20. AR, If you record cops it better be covert. They kick ass if they know and then take the tape. There are keychain cameras that are under $200. And, your line to the cops is too chippy. Don’t make it confrontational, be sweet as pie and don’t invoke any rights until appropriate.

  21. Conspicuously recording cops is legal in all states. Password protect your cellphone and livestream with Bambuser. In the game of our word versus theirs, and their word is always right, I prefer to have audio and video evidence.

    Point being do not be afraid to assert your rights!

  22. AR, That chip on your shoulder is a real liability. Of course its legal. But the question is, do you want to win, or do you want to buck up to the cop. It’s really an either or in almost all cases. That conspicuous tape will be seized and destroyed. Happens all the time. I agree you should not “be afraid” to assert your rights. That’s not the issue. I taught kids, and my kids, how to be savvy in asserting your rights. And being chippy is simply not the way. But, I’m a libertarian, do it anyway you want. Good luck! You’ll need it.

  23. It is possible to be polite and non-confrontational, assert your rights, and not have a chip on your shoulder.

    I agree, be savvy, but ceasing a legal activity due to fear of retaliation? No.

    As for potentially (and illegally) seizing my camera, be warned, bambuser records and uploads simultaneously. Now the A/V evidence is online to be retrieved at my convenience. Better yet, my Android+Bambuser continues to livestream even when power button is pushed. That means it is now operating behind the phone’s lockscreen.

    Take care

  24. The legalization of MJ in some states poses an interesting question. To what extent can the police rely on the out-of-state tag from a MJ legal jurisdiction as one of many factors in establishing probable cause/reasonable suspicion.

    In determining whether probable cause exists for an arrest or, more often, whether articulable suspicion exists for a stop, courts have long considered whether the police knew that the person detained was coming from a source city for narcotics, typically, New York, LA or Miami. So, when the Maryland State Trooper patrolling southbound on I-95 sees a vehicle with New York tags reading “Gonja Gud” and occupied by several males in dreads each laughing hysterically and consuming large quantities of potato chips, he may conclude that the smoke filling the passenger compartment of the vehicle is smoke from burning marijuana and, consistent with the Constitution, pull the vehicle over. The cop may also be informed by the fact that the rear of the vehicle, a late model Mercedes Benz, appears to be weighted down and it seems like a greenish weed substance is protruding from the car carrier on the roof of the vehicle. The same vehicle bearing Kentucky tags “Blue Grass is my only Grass” and occupied by four Fillipino nuns all praying the rosary will be permitted to proceed unimpeded, the full time and attention violation will be, for the moment, ignored. Okay, so that’s a bad example.

    How about this one. The scenario: a car full of teenagers all laughing hysterically; smoke filling the passenger compartment; crossing a state line entering Kansas; approaching the location of a Grateful Dead concert. In one case, the car is coming from Colorado. In the other case, the car is leaving Oklahoma. Surely, the a cop can’t detain the Oklahoma kids. Does the fact that Colorado legalizes marijuana tip the balance and permit the cop to stop the Colorado vehicle?

  25. I do not understand “Surely, the a cop can’t detain the Oklahoma kids.” Do kids from Oklahoma have immunity in Kansas? Is it reciprocal?

  26. If you think Idaho State Trooper Justin Klitch should be fired,
    please let his boss know. The Director of the Idaho State Police is a
    man named Colonel Ralph Powell. Colonel Powell’s email address is

    If you’d like to contact Colonel Powell via the USPS, his mailing address is:

    Colonel Ralph Powell
    Director, Idaho State Police
    Idaho State Police Headquarters
    700 S. Stratford Drive
    Meridian, ID 83642

    If you’d like to email Trooper Justin Klitch directly, his email address is

  27. Vince – I had four of my students pulled over near Denver and their car searched for drugs because they had Arizona plates and were ‘driving while brown.’ That is as much as the officer could articulate when pulling them over. For some strange reason the car was clean. :) Honestly, I was surprised when they told me there were no drugs in the car. I knew all of them did recreational drugs.

  28. Paul,

    There ain’t no justification for stopping the OK. Just because the kids are laughing (a good joke) and smoke fills the passenger compartment (cigarettes), does not give rise to the inference that there is MJ on board – or any other criminal conduct for that matter. With respect to the CO kids, they have legal (and presumably easier) access to MJ, making the case for their having MJ on board stronger.

  29. never ever, for whatever reason give permission for your vehicle to be searched. if they’re asking you, then they don’t have probable cause because if they did, they wouldn’t ask.
    if they do bring the dog, make sure the k-9 officer knows you’ve got him on video the entire time. even if you don’t know how to do that with your phone, they don’t know that.
    and when you’re standing on the side of the road and the officer is asking you why he/she can’t search, you don’t have to answer.

  30. I was pulled over twice within 25 miles of. entering Idaho (with Washington license plate) in May 2014. There appears to be a clear pattern of this behavior on the part of Idaho law enfofcement. And despite the two stops, a K-9 called in to search my vehicle, no record can be found of this encounter. . .Interesting…..a Spokane man reported simiar profiling and Idaho ” just couldn’t find any record of”^ his stop

  31. If Idaho feels that threatened by motorists from Washington and Colorado, thhey should be upfront about it and establish checkpoints. Numerous States have them, and this is preferable to having officers tear at after you as soon as they see you, question you on the shoulder of a 75MPH freeway, and barely mention the bogus traffic “infraction” they used ad a pretext/pretense for pursuing, stopping, and interrogating you.
    I’m not sure if it’s Idaho State Police, or Idaho “Police State”

  32. Tom Nash – SCOTUS has upheld profiling if there seems to be a nexus.
    Back in the day I had a 61 VW that had a sticker on it saying “Support your local Police” and on the next line “State” I did seem to get pulled over a lot.

  33. to Paul C. Schulte
    Thank you for your response, and also your previous postings. I am new to t J.tTurley’websiye, and have found it. to be one of the better ones re constitutional issues.
    Also, congradulations on the naming of the Indiana school in. your honpr!

  34. to Paul C. Schulte….I was joking about the PAUL c. SCHULTE SCHOOL in INDIANA.
    The man it was named for would now be 124 years old today.
    …I just thought the name rang a bell and wanted to ” credit” you with your “namesake school”

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