Colorado has legalized weed and everybody knows it. Not like they're keeping it a secret, right? While everything seems to be going very well there, things change once one crosses the borders in to other states... More specifically the illegal states, where marijuana use still isn't tolerated. Simply because of the license plate on your car, cops find any excuse to pull Colorado residents over. And for one man who took a trip to Idaho earlier this year, this exact situation arose and became a huge issue of what the man's attorney calls "license plate profiling". First of all, all cops should be aware that just because the car is from Colorado doesn't mean the driver smokes weed... Not everyone in the state is blazing now that the law says it's okay. The police in Idaho weren't thinking that when they pulled over Darien Roseen and not only unlawfully detained him but searched his vehicle for cannabis simply on the fact that Roseen had Colorado plates on his car.
The search was conducted over a year ago, January 25th, 2013 when Roseen (age 69) was on his way from his daughter's baby shower in Washington state to his other home located in Pagosa Springs. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year, against the police in Payette County, Idaho. Roseen's attorney said that his client was detained for hours while the cops dug through his Honda Ridgeline for the culprit of an apparent pot smell. Don't forget that at this time, cannabis was still not fully legal in Colorado but just allowed for medical patients. The laws had recently passed in those states but the recreational cannabis wouldn't be available for another year (effective Jan 2014).
Roseen was pulling off to use a rest stop around 11:40am off of I-84 when he passed a state trooper parked in the median. The trooper, Justin Klitch, followed Roseen to the parking lot and turned on the flashing lights, parked behind the truck, and walked up to the side of Roseen's truck. When questioned as to the nature of the flashing lights, Klitch reportedly didn't give the man a reason but eventually said that there had been no signal light used when Roseen pulled off in to the rest stop and that he had also hit two curbs when pulling in to the stop. Roseen insisted that he has used the signal and could not distinguish where the curbs were under the snow, not to mention he was distracted when the officer turned on the lights behind him.
Klitch refused to believe that Roseen was getting off the highway to use the restroom and instead, insisted that he had been attempting to avoid the state police. Klitch then questioned the driver on why his eyes were glassy and began to accuse him of transporting something "that he should not have in his vehicle". Roseen admitted that he had prescription medication from a doctor but no weed. However, Klitch kept pushing, asking the man "When is the last time you used marijuana?" Again and again, Roseen said that he didn't have any weed and had never even smoked. After being asked three times to search the vehicle, Roseen opened up a few places in the vehicle so he could "get back on the road faster". But the officer continued to say that he smelled the plant and used that as probable cause to search the vehicle, holding Roseen in the back of his cruiser, transporting him to the sheriff's office, and searching the Honda. Once at the station, Roseen was told that he could leave but couldn't have his car because they hadn't finished searching it. He was also given a citation for careless driving. There were at least eight officers that searched the vehicle from top to bottom and guess what? No illegal substances were found.
Plate profiling is something that Colorado residents really need to think about before leaving their state. As soon as you cross those borders, you're immediately in trouble if you're transporting marijuana. If you are a Colorado (or Washington) resident, please remember this when venturing out of your state. Do not carry marijuana with you in illegal states if you have certain license plates. Other cases have come forward to the same Boise law firm that handled Roseen's lawsuit, complaining of similar treatment at the hands of officers. Don't think for a second that it couldn't happen to you. Please be safe (and smart) when traveling!