Colorado drivers accuse out-of-state police of ‘license plate profiling’ and marijuana searches

There are increasing reports from drivers that they are being profiled when out of state, simply because of their Colorado license plates. After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use, drivers from the Centennial State have claimed that while in other states they have been pulled over and their cars have been examined or searched for pot.

As reported by KRDO NewsChannel 13, David Adkins and Kay Harmon were pulled over by a state trooper while traveling outside of Las Vegas. The couple said that on January 26 they were spotted by an undercover Nevada State trooper who had been following a speeding driver. The trooper changed his target and followed their white Chevy Avalanche instead. Adkins said, "There was no reason for him to pull us over. Why did he pull us over? Only because we had a Colorado license plate and he stuck his head right in there and started sniffing as soon as he came up to the car.” “Didn’t ask for license, registration, nothing.” Harmon added.

The trooper alleged that Adkins was swerving but the driver said he was only doing that because he was trying to keep an eye on the trooper’s car in his rear view mirror. “He asked me if I was tired and I said, ‘No. It's three o'clock in the afternoon,’” Adkins recounted. “He just pulled us over because just to check to see if we had pot.”

KRDO spoke to a Nevada State Patrol Public Information Officer, who denied the likelihood of a trooper profiling drivers with Colorado plates. He added that swerving qualifies as the probable cause necessary for troopers to pull drivers over.

KDVR Fox 31 reported that 70-year-old Darian Roseen, another Colorado driver, is filing a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that he was targeted by Idaho State Police and was a victim of license plate profiling. Roseen says that in January 2013, an Idaho trooper pulled him over and conducted multiple searches for marijuana simply because of his Colorado license plate. Roseen’s attorney, Mark Coonts said, “From the facts and even the video of the dash cam of the police car, the conversation turns quickly from a lane change violation to, ‘Where is your marijuana?’” At the time, medicinal marijuana was legal in Colorado, and the state’s voters had just passed the recreational marijuana law (though sales wouldn’t begin for another year).

The lawsuit alleges that the trooper detained Roseen, but the driver was not allowed to call an attorney while he was repeatedly accused of having an illegal substance. Two searches of Roseen’s vehicle were conducted by two agencies, and nothing illegal was discovered. Mr. Roseen was eventually released with a citation for careless driving. The Idaho State Patrol would not comment on the specifics of the case as it is still pending. However, a representative said that motorists are only pulled over by the state troopers when there is just cause. Mark Coonts hopes the case will raise awareness of license plate profiling and said, “This isn’t a pro-marijuana case or an anti-marijuana case. This is a civil rights case.”

Videos and more info: KRDO, KDVR