Local News

State police accused of improper search and seizure

RUTLAND — Police violated a Rutland man’s constitutional rights when they stopped him because of a snow-covered license plate and then searched his car without probable cause, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont (ACLU-VT).

The suit, filed in Rutland Superior Court, alleges that police violated Greg Zullo’s right to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure. According to the lawsuit, Zullo was left stranded on the side of the road eight miles from home after police impounded his vehicle because a state trooper smelled marijuana but otherwise had no evidence of a crime. Police issued no warning or ticket for any offense, ACLU-VT alleges.

The suit questions whether the stop was legal as well as whether police can continue to use a “sniff test” when possessing small quantities of marijuana is no longer a crime. The state decriminalized possession of an ounce or less in 2013.

“The police must stop treating people like criminals if they suspect that a small amount of marijuana is involved,” said ACLU attorney Dan Barrett, who, with Stowe attorney Antonio Pyle, represents Zullo in the suit. “There is no such thing as probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed when the ‘crime’ is a civil offense. Civil offenses aren’t crimes.”

By Laura Krantz, VTDigger.org

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