Judge: Boise police used ‘flagrant’ conduct in man’s arrest. He is suing city, officers

A Boise resident was arrested in March 2022 and charged with several drug-related crimes after police accused him of loitering at a car wash.

Less than five months later, those charges were dismissed by a district judge who was highly critical of the two arresting Boise Police Department officers.

Now that man, Luke Schuchardt, has filed a lawsuit accusing the city of Boise and police of violating his Fourth Amendment rights.

In the newly filed 43-page suit, which was obtained by the Idaho Statesman, Schuchardt accused the officers of using the city’s loitering ordinance — which the complaint called a “facade” — to gain access to his vehicle and conduct an “unlawful” search. The lawsuit names Boise officers Ryan Pollard and Craig Sousa, both of whom joined the department in March 2020.

“Officer Sousa and Pollard’s unlawful seizure was a frightening, frustrating, invasive and stressful experience for Mr. Schuchardt,” according to the complaint.

This incident, along with a prior case, suggest that the department “had a practice or custom” of using the loitering ordinance to conduct drug investigations without reasonable evidence, the complaint asserted. Schuchardt’s attorneys, as part of the lawsuit, have asked that the city’s loitering ordinance be declared “unconstitutional” and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In a similar instance, an Ada County judge suppressed evidence in 2019 after two Boise police officers searched the vehicle of a woman who was parked outside a store off of Fairview Avenue because the officers accused her of loitering, according to an order submitted as a part of Schuchardt’s lawsuit.

The judge’s order said that being parked at a store after hours “does not raise reasonable suspicion” that someone is engaged in a criminal act or is violating the city’s loitering ordinance.

Pete Wood, one of Schuchardt’s attorneys, told the Statesman that “what happened to Luke was wrong.”

“Nobody in this great city should be accosted by the police unless and until the officers have actual evidence the individual has committed a crime,” Wood said in a statement. “We are hopeful this lawsuit will incentivize the city to do the right thing and repeal its plainly unconstitutional loitering ordinance, which the police are using as a de facto general warrant to circumvent the Fourth Amendment.”

The city has yet to reply to the lawsuit, but according to court records, it has until March 15 to file any responding paperwork. The city did not respond to the Statesman’s request for comment.

Boise Police Officer Craig Sousa questions Boise resident Luke Schuchardt outside Snake River Car Wash in March 2022 after detaining him for loitering. Schuchardt has now filed a lawsuit against the city, Sousa and another officer after alleging they violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using the city’s loitering ordinance to conduct an “unlawful” drug search.

‘You guys were meeting out here to use drugs,’ officer says

Schuchardt was sitting in his white Jeep Cherokee in one of Snake River Car Wash’s self-service bays roughly 30 minutes after midnight on March 4, 2022, when Pollard and Sousa pulled into the West Boise business, according to the complaint.

Sousa had driven by the car wash, located off of West Ustick Road, at around 12:15 a.m. on his way to another call when he noticed an unspecified vehicle parked in one of the bays. He added that the lights illuminating the business weren’t on and called it an “unusual circumstance,” according to the complaint.

Immediately after the officers pulled into the car wash, Pollard stepped out of his patrol vehicle, drew his firearm and told Schuchardt to put his hands up, the complaint said.

While Pollard detained Schuchardt, Sousa ordered a woman parked in the neighboring bay to get out of her car and sit on her front bumper, according to the complaint. Within minutes, Sousa called dispatch and requested a K9 unit.

While Sousa questioned the woman, he directly asked her about her drug use and whether she knew Schuchardt, according to body-camera footage provided to the Statesman by Wood.

“I think you guys were meeting out here to use drugs,” Sousa told the woman.

Pollard accused Schuchardt of loitering and said he’d been at the car wash for an “extended period of time,” to which Schuchardt countered that he’d been sitting in his car there only for a few minutes and was gathering change to pay for the car wash.

After the K9 unit arrived, the dog detected drugs in both vehicles, which prompted the officers to search the cars, according to the complaint said. Pollard arrested Schuchardt — who had already been handcuffed — on an outstanding warrant for failing to complete 20 hours of community service and failing to make payments on a previous misdemeanor conviction, court records showed.

Pollard said he discovered methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia in Schuchardt’s vehicle, according to the complaint. No drugs were found in the woman’s car and she was allowed to leave.

Schuchardt eventually was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, along with two misdemeanors, according to court records: possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Neither Schuchardt nor the woman was issued a citation for loitering.

Judge calls police officers’ conduct ‘flagrant’

Fourth District Judge Michael Reardon suppressed any evidence obtained by police in Schuchardt’s criminal case — including the suspected drugs — and agreed that the search of his vehicle was unconstitutional, according to a court order.

That led Reardon to dismiss all charges against Schuchardt, court records showed.

Reardon said in the order that when Sousa and Pollard “converged” on Schuchardt at the car wash, the officers didn’t investigate how long he’d been there, whether he had a reasonable explanation for being there or “any other factors that would give rise to reasonable suspicion that a crime was occurring or about to occur.”

No one complained to the police or reported any suspicious activity, Reardon noted, and he added that the only information police had was Schuchardt’s presence at the car wash. If Sousa suspected a drug deal was about to take place, his “suspicion could only have been based on a hunch,” according to the judge.

“Given the level of force displayed, coupled with the lack of any articulable facts supporting any reasonable suspicion, it is difficult to regard the officers’ conduct in this matter as other than flagrant,” Reardon wrote in the order.