BLACKFOOT – A senior judge sitting in for District Judge Darren Simpson on Tuesday presided over two hearings, one on a motion by a defendant and the other on a motion by the prosecutor’s office.
In the first hearing, a Blackfoot woman who was pulled over for speeding but ended up charged with possession of methamphetamine, filed a motion to suppress the evidence against her on the grounds she was profiled and the search that revealed the evidence was a violation of her constitutional right to privacy.
The motion from April Dawn Ramos was heard by 7th District Senior Judge Alan Stephens, and when it was over, he took a decision under advisement, saying he will review the record and make a decision as soon as possible.
Ramos was represented by public defender Brianna Rosier, who said her client claims she was profiled because she’s had dealings with the arresting officer, Bingham County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Lawrence Henry, before and he knows her criminal history.
“He didn’t do the normal things an officer would do when someone is stopped for speeding,” Rosier said. “He didn’t ask to see her driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, and he called for the drug dog even before he began sobriety testing.”
Henry and K9 officer Jared Miller were the only witnesses called to testify at the hearing.
Henry testified that he didn’t pull Ramos over because he recognized her, but because she was speeding. He said he didn’t recognize her until he approached the car, and only asked her to exit the vehicle because she appeared impaired, but said his suspicions were first aroused because of the way she pulled her car to the curb.
He said she had difficulty getting out of the car and showed other signs of impairment, so he field tested her for sobriety. He said she was unsteady on her feet, had trouble standing still, constantly moved her hands about, and had other symptoms of drug use, including constricted pupils.
When Rosier questioned Henry’s ability to tell someone is impaired just by observation, Deputy Prosecutor Jason Chandler said Henry is specially trained to recognize signs of drug impairment.
Miller testified that his dog immediately hit on the car when he arrived, and a search turned up methamphetamine, a pipe and syringe.
Rosier argued that the video from the officer’s patrol car doesn’t align with the requirements of reasonable suspicion, which grants police the right to search a vehicle without a warrant.
She said the search was a violation of the 4th Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure, and as such the evidence should be suppressed.
Ramos was remanded to custody in lieu of $30,000 bail after Chandler said that at the time of her arrest she hadn’t been checking in with pretrial services as required by her own recognizance release, and was already facing a charge of methamphetamine possession when she got the new one.
In the second hearing, Chandler asked the court to release the state from a plea agreement in which defendant Joseph Prain, 34, of Ammon, was allowed to plead guilty to a single felony charge and five would be dismissed in exchange for his testimony against a defendant accused of trafficking methamphetamine.
According to a sheriff’s detective, Prain accompanied his confidential informant to buy methamphetamine but when the time came for him to testify, he told them he was using meth heavily at the time and couldn’t remember what happened.
“He did not provide any help,” Chandler said. “He didn’t uphold his part of the bargain.”
Stephens, a retired district judge from Madison County sitting in for Bingham County Judge Darren Simpson, invalidated the plea agreement and ordered that Prain be scheduled for preliminary hearing on the original charges.