PAYETTE COUNTY -- A Washington state man driving a car with Colorado license plates says police sought him out and accused him of having illegal drugs because he's from a state where marijuana is legal. On Wednesday, he filed a lawsuit in federal court.
Darien Roseen says he was driving through Idaho on a snowy winter day in January 2013 when an Idaho State Police trooper stopped him, and Roseen claims, violated the driver's civil rights.
It began with being profiled, being stereotyped because of the license plate that was on his car, Roseen's attorney Eric Swartz said.
Roseen is suing Idaho State Police, and other local agencies that he says illegally profiled, detained and searched him.
There are certain things that give rise to stereotype. Idaho happens to be bordered by several states who have legalized marijuana to some degree or another, and I do think a stereotype has been cast upon individuals coming from those states or having license plates from those states, Swartz said.
Swartz says Roseen was headed to his second home in Colorado from his daughter's baby shower in Washington, passing through Oregon and Idaho on the way. Roseen's license plates were from Colorado and his driver's license was from Washington. Both states have legalized marijuana.
In court documents, Roseen says he had just crossed into Idaho on Interstate 84 when an Idaho State trooper pulled out, sped up, and began to follow him to a nearby rest stop. Once Roseen pulled into the rest stop, he says the trooper stopped him for improper use of a turn signal and hitting the curb as he pulled into the stop.
Then Roseen alleges the trooper began asking Roseen questions about marijuana, transporting illegal substances and asking to search the car. Initially, Roseen declined search and then agreed to showing him some of his car's contents.
But it got worse, and when it got worse, then we're talking about outside agencies coming in and literally getting into Mr. Roseen's vehicle and driving it without his permission. They took his property and they detained Mr. Roseen, Swartz said.
In the lawsuit, Roseen says he was taken to the Payette County Sheriff's Office in the back of a squad car and ticketed for inattentive/careless driving. Officers continued to search the car, says Swartz, but found no marijuana.
Swartz says his client's civil rights were violated numerous times during the traffic stop and says his case shouldn't be perceived as a marijuana-legalization issue.
What kind of precedent are we setting for ourselves, for our community? I no more want to get pulled over in Washington because a trooper in Washington sees my Idaho plate and thinks I'm carrying a firearm illegally into Washington, than I want our Idaho state troopers pulling over people that they associate with having legalized marijuana, Swartz said.
Since he filed, Roseen's lawsuit has caught a lot of attention. Swartz says his office has heard from numerous people saying they too believe they were illegally searched based on profiling.
Since the filing of that complaint, I'll bet we're close to 100 emails and phone calls from people inside Idaho, outside Idaho who have shared similar situations with us, Swartz said.
KTVB spoke to the Idaho State Police Monday, and a spokeswoman says ISP is aware of the lawsuit but has not been formally served.
Here is a statement ISP released to the media Tuesday morning:
The Idaho State Police has learned that the department and one of its Troopers were named in a lawsuit filed by Darien Roseen for an alleged incident that occurred during a traffic stop on January 25, 2013. ISP did not receive a complaint from Mr. Roseen prior to the filing of this lawsuit.
We would like to assure the citizens of Idaho and the visitors to our state that the Idaho State Police holds all of its employees to a high standard which includes following the Constitution of the United States and the laws and constitution of the State of Idaho.
The allegations made by Mr. Roseen are now a pending legal matter, as well as, the subject of an internal investigation. Therefore, ISP will not be able to comment on the allegations or the facts of this specific incident until the matter is resolved.
None of the accused police agencies has filed a formal response in court.