A judge has thrown out evidence against a New Jersey man accused of having 55 pounds of marijuana in his car during a traffic stop on Interstate 84 in Canyon County.
Huu V. Tran, 56, was pulled over by an Idaho State Police trooper while eastbound in a Toyota minivan on I-84 in Canyon County on Nov. 16 for following too closely and obstructing his rear license plate. The trooper found marijuana in the minivan during the traffic stop.
Third District Judge Thomas Ryan this week granted a motion to suppress evidence, writing that police “unlawfully prolonged the detention of the defendant to ask for consent to search the vehicle” and that “the state has not met its burden of proof demonstrating that the defendant’s consent to search the vehicle was voluntary.”
The state trooper wrote in the report that Tran was “jittery” and that his hands were “shaking tremendously” as he searched for his driver’s license and vehicle paperwork. While Tran searched, the officer asked him if there was any marijuana in the minivan and then asked several times for consent to search the car.
Tran’s attorney Robert Tilley wrote in a media release that Tran felt he had no choice to consent to a search and opened the minivan’s back hatch where the officer found the marijuana in black duffel bags.
The officer claimed Tran verbally consented to the search, but audio from video evidence presented during a suppression hearing April 20 didn’t pick up Tran’s responses to the officer’s requests to search the minivan.
Ryan wrote that the court was not persuaded by Tran’s claim that he was driving unlawfully close to the car in front of him due to slowing traffic, so the police officer had lawful cause to stop the car to investigate the traffic violation.
However, he wrote, the officer did err when he continued to ask Tran for consent to search his car 13 times before even running his license information and checking his registration and proof of insurance.
The judge determined that the officer acted on a “hunch,” was lawfully obligated to investigate a traffic stop and had no independent reasonable suspicion to expand the scope of the investigation into a search for marijuana.
The Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office has the right to appeal Ryan’s decision.
According to the Idaho Repository, Tran faces charges of felony drug trafficking in marijuana and misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia. He is due in court again for a motion hearing June 12.