By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
CONCORD — After all of the evidence in a case against a Laconia man who allegedly had a half of a pound of methamphetamine in his possession was disallowed by a Belknap County Superior Court judge, the state Attorney General has asked the state's highest court for a review.
Attorney General Joseph Foster is challenging the court's determination that the inventory search of the car Peter Dauphin, 42, of Appleton Street was driving in late April of 2015 was not justified, so the evidence found and subsequent statements made could not be used against him.
Foster has asked the Supreme Court to determine Judge Peter Fauver erred when he found Laconia Police conducted a warrantless search of the car. That's because the car never was going to be in police custody, but instead was towed to Dauphin's home about 200 feet away.
Foster is also challenging the court's determination that the search violated Dauphin's constitutional rights because it didn't serve "any important non-investigative government interests."
The Laconia Police towing policy, which is similar to, if not exactly like, other police departments' towing policies, says that vehicles being taken into police custody or that are towed at the request of the police are subject to a non-investigative search so as to protect the police against false claims of theft and to protect the car's driver against theft or damage by either the police or the tow company.
In this case, the court suppressed the discovery of methamphetamine in the car because Dauphin arranged the tow directly with the tow company and paid them to take the car to his home.
The Attorney General is also asking the high court to review the court's exclusion of Dauphin's statements to the police that he had additional methamphetamine in his home. These statements were made to the police after his arrest and Fauver suppressed them under the "fruits of the poisonous tree doctrine," which means that if he had not been arrested he never would have made the statements.
Foster argues that police obtained a warrant for the search of his home.
The case is currently on hold at the Belknap County Superior Court until the Supreme Court rules on the suppression issues.
At the time Dauphin was arrested, police determined the plates to his car belongs to a man who had sold the car to Dauphin and confiscated them, leading to the tow. Dauphin asked police if he could tow the car to his house and police agreed that they didn't need to impound it. After speaking with a duty sergeant, the officers did an inventory search and found about half ounce of methamphetamine in a sunglass holder-type bag under the front seat. After he was read his Miranda Rights and arrested, Dauphin allegedly told police there was more methamphetamine in his home and where they could find it.
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