LINCOLN, Neb. -- A Lancaster County, Nebraska, judge says the cocaine, marijuana and cash found in an SUV on Interstate 80 last year cannot be used as evidence at trial against two Sioux City men because a Lincoln police officer lacked probable cause to stop it.
Phillip Plummer, 35, and Andre Plummer, 42, both are charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine and marijuana as well as possession of money during a drug violation for the stop Sept. 16, 2016, near the 56th Street exit.
That morning, Lincoln Officer John Hudec, a member of the Criminal Interdiction Task Force, stopped a black, 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe with Minnesota plates, gave Phillip Plummer a warning ticket for following too closely, then asked to search.
He declined, but officers ended up searching anyway when one smelled marijuana on the driver as a police dog was sent around the SUV.
In court records, police said the search turned up 3¼ pounds of marijuana, 2 ounces of cocaine and $15,605 cash.
Phillip Plummer's attorney, Justin Kalemkiarian, and Andre Plummer's public defender, Todd Molvar, filed motions to suppress the drugs and cash from trial, arguing that the officer had no reason to stop the SUV.
In an order last week, Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret agreed.
She said the officer testified at a hearing on the motion that he spotted the eastbound Santa Fe in an area where the speed limit goes from 75 to 65 mph and the driver was well within the limit.
The officer took the 27th Street exit, then immediately got back on I-80 driving over 90 mph to catch up to the SUV, according to his in-car video, Maret wrote.
The Santa Fe still was going the speed limit in the center lane and became boxed-in. When a car cut in front of the SUV, the officer stopped Phillip Plummer for following too closely. But Maret said the video showed he had begun to create a gap, "and if given more than 14 seconds would have probably done so had the officer not pulled him over."
"The driver was not following," she wrote, "but was rather moved over on, and for that reason the officer did not have probable cause to stop the vehicle."
Maret said the driver, by all accounts, maintained his lane of travel and followed the rules of the road. To follow too closely, the driver must intend to do so, Maret said.
Without the evidence, the cases will probably be dismissed.