State Attorney rebuts motion to suppress evidence in Laconia methamphetamine

LACONIA — The state Attorney General's Office has claimed city police not only had the right but an obligation to search a local man's car last April after he was stopped for speeding in the Lakeport section of town.
The search lead to the discovery of what ultimately totaled nearly 12 ounces of methamphetamine and $12,000 in cash in the car and in the home of Peter Dauphin, 42, of 19 Appleton St. Dauphin's attorney, Mark Sisti, had filed paperwork with the Belknap County Superior Court asking the court to suppress the search and throw out the drug evidence against his client. The AG's office rebutted that in a motion filed this week.
While Sisti and attorney Jason Casey agree Dauphin had just purchased the car he was driving from another man, Sisti says it is not illegal to drive a car that is registered to a different person but Carey argues that because Dauphin had the bill of sale and admitted he hadn't gotten the car registered, the arresting officer has the right to remove the plates and force Dauphin to have the car towed.
Sisti said that because police allowed Dauphin to initially negotiate and pay the tow truck driver to have his car towed to his house, it was Dauphin's tow and the Laconia police illegally searched the car once it was on the flatbed.
Casey argued that it was the Laconia Police who called the tow truck company and that Dauphin would have had to pay for it regardless of where it was towed. He claims the officer had an obligation to search it because the city's tow policy states that "every vehicle that is taken into custody or towed under orders of a member of [the Laconia Police Department] shall have the contents of the vehicle towed."
Sisti said that, according to state law, a car can be ordered towed by police only under certain circumstances and that none of those were applicable that night. He said the car was not unattended nor was it going to be, it was not obstructing a road because it was already on the flatbed when the officer initiated the search, there was no complaint of obstruction, it was not stolen and it was registered, and Dauphin was not incapacitated.
While Casey said there is no direct New Hampshire case law that addresses Dauphin's choice of destinations for the car, he cited a Massachusetts law where a defendant under a nearly identical situation asked for the police to tow his car to his home, it was searched and cocaine was found. Casey said the Massachusetts Supreme Court rejected the same argument being made by Sisti and ruled that the operative police what not the destination of the tow but who order it – in both case, he said, the police.
Dauphin is charged with one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute it. The case is being held in the Belknap County Superior Court and is being tried by Judge Peter Fauver. The state Attorney General's Officer is prosecuting.

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Shaker's state test scores show students keeping up with averages

BELMONT — Students in the Shaker Regional School District scored consistently above the state average in English Language Arts in the recent Smarter Balanced Assessment Tests and were for the most part on par with the state students in math.

In Grades 3 through 8, the Shaker students scored on average seven points higher in English Language Arts than students in the rest of the state. In grades 7 and 8, 73 and 74 percent of the students respectively scored at or above proficiency, handily exceeding the average scores for other seventh- and eighth-grade students in the state.

Math scores were a little more mixed, with grades 6, 7 an 8 performing higher than the rest of the state, while the fifth-graders appeared to struggle with the math tests with only 26 percent scoring at a proficient or better level. Sixty-eight percent of the English Language Arts students scored at proficient or above, ahead of the state average by five points.

According to the draft minutes of the Dec. 8 School Board meeting where the scores were presented, Middle School Principal Aaron Pope said he and his staff were providing extra focus on the students in the fifth grade and working toward increasing all of the student's scores.

Overall, the elementary students who were tested did about the same as the rest of the state. In English Language Arts, the third and fourth graders scored 63 and 64 percent respectively at proficient or above while the balance of the state's students averaged in the middle 50s.

In math, 46 percent of the third-grade students scored at proficient or above, while the state average was 53 percent. In Grade 4, Shaker students and state students scored 49 percent proficient or above.

Belmont Elementary Principal Sheila Arnold and Canterbury Elementary School Principal Mary Morrison said students practiced a great deal for the tests, but school board members said they are still concerned with the math scores that were slightly below the state average. These were the first tests taken on a computer rather than pencil and paper.

The only high school students tested by the Smarter Balanced were the juniors, who will be tested by the SATs next year for their levels of proficiency. Shaker students scored 38 percent proficient or above, but Principal Dan Clary told the board that even though those scores were slightly higher than the state average, he would like to see them improve. He said the same thing about the English scores that showed 49 percent of the juniors were proficient and above while the state averaged 50 percent. Draft minutes of the meeting reflected that he has sent a letter home to parents explaining how the school district will help the student's improve their scores.

In science, students are still tested in their junior year with the NECAP tests and 52 percent of Shakers students who scored proficient or better, besting the state by 17 points.

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Gilford selectmen OK pond engineering study

GILFORD — The Selectboard gave Fire Chief Steve Carrier permission to spend $13,400 for engineering services for preparing for work on the fire pond on Alvah Wilson Road that serves the high school and middle school campus.
Carrier said the brook that feeds the pond was rerouted right through the pond about five years ago, and the pond is now filled with silt making it less effective for firefighting purposes.
He said part of the answer is dredging the pond, but the real solution is to reroute the brook back to its original banks and keep the pond clear of silt.
Carrier noted the entire area where the pond is located is swampy, so the pond will still fill with water even if the river doesn't run through it.
Selectmen agreed that is it a key firefighting pond in that area and said the expertise is justified.

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