ALTON — A local man who is facing charges of illegal dumping is asking a judge to throw out the evidence against him.
Mark Hanson, 66, of Church Street, in Alton, is accused of dumping “a petroleum product” on Stockbridge Corner Road last Dec. 11.
After examining the area of the spill, police contacted the state Department of Environmental Services, which sent an investigator to the scene. Investigator Gardner Warr told an Alton police officer that Hanson’s vehicle had been seen leaking gasoline in Rochester on April 4, 2018.
Meanwhile, police received information that a Ford pickup with a cap in the bed, being driven by an older man with white hair, was seen driving suspiciously in the area of Stockbridge Corner Road.
Two days after the Alton spill was reported, Alton police stopped Hanson. They told him he was suspected of illegally dumping gasoline along roadways.
In checking his vehicle the officer saw tubing and other items that could be used to discharge petroleum products. When the officer told Hanson of his suspicions, Hanson denied illegally dumping any material on Stockbridge Corner Road, but acknowledged that he might have spilled some petroleum products some months before.
An officer then went to Hanson’s residence on Church Street, looked around the premises, and told Hanson that because of some things he had seen during his walk-about, police were applying for a warrant to search the house for any evidence that might be related to the reported dumping.
In a motion to suppress evidence, Hanson’s attorney, Caroline Brown, said police had no legitimate reason to stop Hanson’s vehicle because he had committed no traffic violation. The motion said the vehicle description police received from a private citizen was too vague for them to deduce that Hanson’s vehicle was the one the person saw.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the witness saw this vehicle leaking or dumping fuel,” Brown wrote at one point in her motion.
A hearing on the motion is set for today in Belknap Superior Court.
Brown further argued that the search of Hanson’s property was improper because police did not obtain Hanson’s permission to enter the premises. Police also never read Hanson his Miranda rights prior to questioning him, the attorney added.
Brown is asking a judge to rule as inadmissible any of the evidence police gathered after Hanson was stopped. Since the traffic stop was tainted, the motion says, anything gained from the stop is also tainted and was obtained in violation of Brown’s rights.
In his rebuttal, Assistant Belknap County Attorney Whit Skinner said the general description police received about the suspect vehicle and its driver were sufficient to give police probable cause to stop Hanson’s truck.
“The officer had a reasonable suspicion that the vehicle he stopped was the same as the one involved in the illegal discharge,” he wrote.
In addition, Skinner said that since Hanson was never placed in police custody, there was no need for police to read him his rights.