Prosecutors dropped charges against an Ohio man after a local judge ruled that drugs seized in a traffic stop during last year’s Summer Camp music festival could not be used as evidence against him.
Peoria County Circuit Judge Timothy Lucas ruled Nov. 8 that the 25 minutes John Coyne and his friends waited until a drug dog was able to arrive on the scene was too long given the nature of the stop.
Prosecutors dismissed all charges against Coyne a day after the order granting his motion to suppress the evidence found by the drug dog, which included marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms and nitrous oxide.
Coyne’s attorney, Jeff Hall, praised the ruling, saying the Illinois State Police trooper “unreasonably prolonged the stop.”
“Police can’t make you sit there and wait that long so the drug dog can get there,” Hall said. “The drug dog needs to get there quicker. If they don’t get the dog there quick enough, then they need to release the vehicle, no matter what the occupants look like.”
Coyne, 31, of Cincinnati and his friends were driving in an old, rusty Volkswagen microbus on May 26, 2011, when they were pulled over just north of Three Sisters Park in Illinois Route 29. The trooper initially stopped them because the front license plate was not attached correctly. Hall challenged that; Lucas found it was acceptable.
Within minutes, the trooper made a request for a drug dog. He was told, according to court records, that dogs from Chillicothe and Peoria were busy and none were available. Nearly 10 minutes into the stop, according to a transcript of the dashboard camera, the trooper is heard saying, “I wish I had a dog; they are definitely like phishheads ... deadhead travelers.”
A minute later, the trooper is heard saying on the video, “I don’t have a whiff of anything ... Nothing.” Twelve minutes later and 22 minutes into the traffic stop, he is heard saying, “I can’t delay this anymore.”
The dog arrived two minutes later and found the drugs.
Coyne was charged with five felonies involving the drugs and had faced up to five years in prison.
Lucas held in the order that detention during a stop must be “temporary” and last no longer than necessary. The judge wrote that the van’s occupants had no warrants and the trooper could detect no obvious signs of criminal activity. Given that, the detention should have stopped there, Lucas wrote.