Not that long ago, we discussed a case where an elderly couple was pulled over by Tennessee police because they had Buckeye leaf decal as Ohio State football fans — including a leaf image that police mistook for a marijuana leaf. They were told to be more careful in showing such images in the future. It seems that the entire state of Colorado could receive the same treatment after Darien Roseen, 70, was stopped when he was returning from a baby shower. He says he was searched because he had a Colorado plate. Since the state recently legalized marijuana, Idaho State Trooper Justin Klitch allegedly stopped his car in what is being called a case of “license plate profiling.” He is now suing over the stop and search.
Roseen was on I-84 when Klitch followed Roseen off an exit. He says that Klitch did not explain why he was stopped but later said it was due to his failure to use a signal at the exit and bumping the curb. When Roseen said he stopped to go to the bathroom, he quotes the officer of saying “You didn’t have to go to the bathroom before you saw me … I’m telling you, you pulled in here to avoid me.” Klitch also allegedly asked why his eyes looked “glassy” and said that he suspected that Klitch had something “in his vehicle that he should not have.”
When Roseen noted that he only had valid prescription medications, Trooper Klitch allegedly asked him, “When is the last time you used any marijuana?” He was asked for permission to search his vehicle and Roseen refused. Klitch reportedly then said that his evasion gave him a stronger suspicion of illegal activity. Roseen finally consented to a search after Klitch allegedly threatened to make him wait for a drug-sniffing dog. When Klitch opened the trunk, Roseen said that Klitch announced that he could smell marijuana. Another officer was called in and Klitch said that the smell allowed him to search the whole vehicle. Roseen was put into the cruiser without reading his Miranda rights and his car driven to a search area where various officers searched it thoroughly. Nothing was found and he was given a ticket of “inattentive/careless” driving.
Roseen’s account contains disturbing similarity to other accounts of pretexual stops by officers seeking drug seizures. We have previously discussed the problem of such pretextual stops. For a prior column, click here.
The failure to use a signal at an exit is widely viewed as a transparent pretextual rationale. The removal of the car for a search is particularly outrageous. There is no indication of any disciplinary of Klitch or response to the allegations, though clearly his nose for marijuana needs some recalibration.