Judge: Police must return $10,000 to motorist

DOVER — A Virginia man will get back $10,000 seized during an unlawful traffic stop last year that violated his constitutional rights, a Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

While Omar Holloman pulled over for a seatbelt violation in Harrington on Nov. 1, 2016, a police officer improperly extended the stop to include a K-9 search for possible drugs located in the vehicle, according to an eight-page order.

Judge Jeffrey Clark found the officer began a drug search on “no more than a hunch.”

He also determined the officer “did not have reasonable, articulable suspicion to extend the stop …”

After the ticketing process was completed, according to court documents, the officer ordered Mr. Holloman out of the car. He “complied but then the officer and Mr. Holloman argued about the purpose of his continued detention.

“The officer informed Mr. Holloman that he had called for a K-9 unit to screen his vehicle and, in the officer’s words, told Mr. Holloman that he was now being detained ‘on my time.’ “

The K-9 called to the scene twice indicated a drug alert when screening the car, according to documents. That led to a further search.

But no drugs or drug paraphernalia were found.

Yet Harrington Police confiscated a backpack found in the trunk that contained $10,000 in cash.

The money was found to have cocaine on it after police took the cash to a Delaware National Guard non-commissioned officer for an ion scan, according to facts of the case cited in the court’s decision.

A seatbelt violation ticket was then issued. But “the State presented no evidence that Mr. Holloman was charged with any criminal activity,” Judge Clark noted.

During an ensuing trial, Mr. Holloman claimed he received the money from his mother and was headed to Philadelphia to invest in properties when detained by police.

His mother testified that statement was accurate but “the Court finds that statements in his petition were somewhat inconsistent because he wrote that he earned money through other legitimate means.”

Police became suspicious because Mr. Holloman was “vague in his destination, his car was registered in Virginia and the officer could see no luggage in the passenger seat of the car,” the Delaware Department of Justice insisted in its argument.

Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal represented the state, while attorney Gary Junge represented Mr. Holloman.

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