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Skultin v. Bushnell (2000)

09 July 2000 Published in Resolved Cases

Unlawful Search, Police Practices - In March 1996, Roy Skultin, Darcy Quimby, and Kellyjo Johnson were traveling east on Interstate 70 when they were pulled over by Utah Highway Patrol trooper Lance Bushnell. After telling them they were being pulled over for attempting to pass a camper, Trooper Bushnell ordered Skultin to exit the vehicle and then interrogated him about everything from his destination to his past criminal record. He gave Skultin a field sobriety test and continued his interrogation.

Trooper Bushnell then requested and was denied permission to search Skultin’s vehicle. He ordered the two female passengers out of the car, searched the car, the trunk of the car, the luggage, both passengers’ purses, and Skultin’s wallet. After Skultin and his passengers were detained for nearly 90 minutes, they were allowed to proceed on their trip. Nothing illegal had been found, no arrest had been made, and no citation had been issued.

In October 1996, the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Andy McCullough filed a complaint on their behalf. After discovery, both sides filed motions for summary judgment. In January 2000, Magistrate Judge Ronald Boyce issued a Report and Recommendation finding that while the original stop may have been justified, the plaintiffs were illegally detained without any reasonable suspicion that they had engaged in any illegal conduct. In unusually harsh language, Judge Boyce noted that while the officer might not have appreciated the appearance or some of the presumed activities of the plaintiffs, he did not have even a “scintilla” of evidence that they had done anything illegal. Judge Boyce also characterized certain of the officer’s arguments for the detention as “frivolous.” The case was settled favorably out of court in 2000.