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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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?

    • 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?

  5. 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

    • 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

    • 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.

  9. 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”

  10. 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!

  11. 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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