Eric San Nicolas accuses DPS of making illegal traffic stop

FORMER educator and Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board member Eric San Nicolas is accusing the Department of Public Safety of making an illegal traffic stop that resulted in his arrest for reckless driving and driving under the influence, among other traffic infractions.

 San Nicolas wants the court to declare the traffic stop on the early morning of July 28, 2018 unreasonable and a violation of his constitutional rights.

Eric San Nicolas

 Through Assistant Public Defender Jean Jacques Nogues, San Nicolas is also asking the court to suppress all evidence and observations resulting from the “illegal traffic stop.”

Nogues said the illegal traffic stop was a violation of his client’s due process rights and rights against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution.

 Nogues said according to  Officer Rodolfo Hermosilla, on July 28 at 1:30 a.m., a woman alleged that her boyfriend, San Nicolas, stole her cell phone and car keys.

 The woman also alleged that San Nicolas was intoxicated at the time he took the keys. She provided DPS a license plate number and indicated that the vehicle belonged to her. The woman also provided the location of her residence.

Officer Hermosilla said he was parked at Tinaktak Drive in Koblerville at 3:24 a.m. and observed a vehicle with the same license plate moving at the street where the woman said she lived.

Hermosilla reported that he then stopped the vehicle.

But Nogues said the officer reported no observation of any traffic violations

“It appears that the sole basis for the violation stop of the vehicle  was the woman’s allegations made two hours earlier that San Nicolas had stolen her car keys and was intoxicated,” Nogues said.

Hermosilla also reported that after San Nicolas was stopped, the officer “made observations that led him to place San Nicolas under arrest for DUI.”

Police charged San Nicolas with violating 9CMC-§7104(a), reckless driving, which is punishable by a fine of $25 to $1,000 or by imprisonment of not more than six months; driving under the influence of drugs, violating § 7105(a)(3); refusing to submit to breathalyzer, violating § 7106(a)(1)(2)(c); and driver license violations, § 2202(b).

Nogues said since violating Section 2202(b) and refusal to submit to breathalyzer test could only occur after a traffic stop had commenced, the only possible cited violations that could have served a reason for the stop were reckless driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or combination of drugs.

 Nogues said the DPS officer did not observe that San Nicolas was operating the vehicle in a manner consistent with reckless driving or DUI.

“Indeed, the sole basis for the stop appears to be the accusations made by the woman two hours earlier,” Nogues added.

“A hearsay allegation that a person was intoxicated at some earlier point in an evening is not a basis to pull over a vehicle.”

Nogues requested the court for a pre-trial evidentiary hearing on the issue.

The bench trial that was scheduled for Dec. 20 was vacated by Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho who has not yet issued any order on Nogues’ request.