Newly obtained dash cam footage of the same Idaho State Police trooper who allegedly “license plate profiled” a Colorado driver will have something for everyone. Those who think police outside of Colorado – in particular, those states that border Colorado – should aggressively be on the lookout for pot from the Centennial State will point to the fact that all three drivers in these stops by Trooper Justin Klitch did in fact have small amounts of marijuana on them. However, those who think “license plate profiling” is a real and unconstitutional phenomenon will point to two of the videos which appear to show Trooper Klitch using minor technicalities to initiate the stop of the driver in the first place.
In the three stops, all of the individuals driving with Colorado plates:
- Admitted to having small amounts of marijuana in the car,
- Were given misdemeanor drug possession citations and had their pot confiscated,
- Were not ticketed on any moving vehicle violation,
- Appeared sober enough to be returned to the road.
Two of the three drivers were pulled over, in part, because although they signaled, they failed to do so for five continuous seconds. The third driver was pulled over for speeding.
In the most significant example of appearing to use a technicality to initiate the contact, Trooper Klitch stopped a car with Colorado plates on November 29, 2013. The vehicle’s signal blinks four times as the car changes lanes to the left and then blinks four times changing lanes back to the right. But when the driver asks why he was pulled over, Trooper Klitch replies, “Driving down the fog line. And you’ve got to signal for five seconds on the interstate.” The driver did not appear to have crossed the right white lane marker – sometimes called the “fog line” – and if he failed to signal for five seconds, he only missed the mark by a second.
Below is a short clip of the driving behavior just before Trooper Klitch initiated the pullover, and the brief exchange described above.
The full video of the stop can be viewed here.
At 14:50 of the full video, Klitch asks the driver, “You got a reason you smoke this or you just like it?” The driver responds, “I have stomach problems.”
Is using the five second-signal rule a technicality? “The Idaho State Police is an agency with a commitment to reduce deaths on Idaho’s highways,” said Idaho State Police Public Information Officer Theresa Baker in an email to Complete Colorado. “One of the ways that we can accomplish this is to change unsafe driving habits. Our troopers attempt to change driving habits through enforcement of the traffic code which may entail stopping a vehicle for an unsafe lane change. While a lane change of this nature does not appear to endanger others, the same driving habits, if not corrected, can easily cause a crash in another circumstance.” Baker went on to say, “While some may claim that the using the violation of these statutes as probable cause for a traffic stop are a “technicality,” they are not. These statutes are plainly worded requirements of the traffic laws in Idaho, as well as other states, and ISP enforces them as such. ”
In a stop on August 17, 2013, Klitch pulls over a red Subaru after “observ[ing] the driver make two lane changes without signaling the required five seconds.” The video shows that the driver signaled to change lanes to the left, but sun glare makes determining whether the driver signaled to the right difficult.
Finally, on July 9, 2013, Klitch stopped the driver of a gold colored Jeep for speeding. According to Klitch’s narrative, radar recorded the driver doing 69 in a 65 mile per hour limit. The driver admitted to drinking, but did not appear drunk, and was not given any citation by Klitch for driving under the influence. The driver had .4 grams of marijuana seized, was cited for possession and failure to display insurance, and was returned to the road. Full video here.
Earlier this year, the concept of “license plate profiling” reached a new level when Darien Roseen filed a federal lawsuit against Trooper Klitch and the Idaho State Police for a stop of his vehicle in January, 2013.
“Also of note in ISP’s records of both of these traffic stops, both [driver 1] and [driver 2] were cited for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia in violation of Idaho law and that these citations were before the recreational use of marijuana became legal in Colorado in January 2014,” Baker said in her email.
A recent report by KMGH Ch 7 analyzed traffic data in neighboring states. Much of the data from Nebraska and Kansas pointed to the fact that most pot-related citations were for citizens of Colorado, but that did not necessarily mean those Colorado citizens were singled out by law enforcement. However, the same study found that “[t]he State Patrol pulls over more Colorado drivers in Duel County, Nebraska than drivers from any other state, including Nebraska. In-state drivers were cited 490 times, while 577 citations were issued to Colorado drivers by Nebraska State Patrol in Deuel County,” indicating a strong likelihood of license plate profiling.
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