By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A Superior Court judge has thrown out the evidence the Belknap County Attorney's Office was depending on to convict a Lakeport man of possession with intent to sell nearly $44,000 of methamphetamine.
In a 17-page ruling issued late last week, Judge Peter Fauver determined that the police had already relinquished control of the car being driven by Peter Dauphin, 43, of Appleton Street before they searched it. The search led to the discovery of the methamphetamine as well as a confession.
"In the present case," wrote Fauver, there is no dispute that law enforcement had not taken physical custody of the Pontiac at the time Officer [Richard] Carlson conducted the inventory search."
Carlson and his training officer saw Dauphin drive from Clinton Street across Lakeport Square on to Elm Street at what they said was a higher rate of speed than was allowed. They followed him to the corner of Sheridan and Appleton Streets and pulled him over.
After realizing the license plates didn't not belong to Dauphin, the police decided to cited him for speeding and for misuse of plates, which required the plates come off of the car and that it be towed.
Dauphin, who lives about 200 feet from the traffic stop, asked police if he could have the car towed to his house. Police agreed and told him he could negotiate his own tow contract with tow company. While Dauphin was arranging the tow, police decided to conduct an "non-investigative" inventory search of the car but it was after he had arranged for his own tow.
During the search, police found methamphetamine under the front passenger seat. Dauphin was arrested and taken to the police station where he admitted he had more methamphetamine in his home. All totaled, Laconia Police found 8.3 ounces of methamphetamine and $11,000 cash in his home. Gilford Police found a small amount of heroin somewhere in his business in that community.
Fauver wrote that "the word 'impoundment' necessarily centers of the broader concept of 'possession': namely that law enforcement must take legal possession of the property in question."
Because Fauver determined the search of Dauphin car was unlawful, he suppressed all of the evidence in the case under the doctrine of "fruits of the poisonous tree," which means the statements he made to police and subsequent search warrants for his house and business came from an unlawfully searched vehicle.
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