Court denies man’s request to exclude evidence

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The Superior Court has denied the motion of a man to suppress the evidence that was obtained from him during a traffic stop.

Roman Agulto, who is accused of possessing methamphetamine and is facing two charges of illegal possession of a controlled substance, wants the court to suppress the evidence of drugs that were obtained from him at a traffic stop, saying it is unclear what basis the police had to suspect that criminal activity was afoot or a traffic violation may have been committed.

According to legal standard, the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizure and this extends to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall short of traditional arrest. To make an investigatory stop, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is happening.

Agulto also disputed that it was unclear what specific statutes he was suspected to have violated prior to the police flagging him down. 

The government said that the police did mention in their reports that the basis for the stop were parking on the highway and reversing on the highway. 

After listening to the arguments and reviewing police testimony and reports, the Superior Court determined that there were several traffic violations committed that could have served as the basis for the investigatory stop.

Citing police testimony, the court said the stop was supported by reasonable suspicion of a traffic infraction.

The police officers’ investigatory stop could also be supported by reasonable suspicion of a possible violation of parking and therefore the officers’ stop of Agulto was justified, the court added.

The court also stated that Agulto’s conduct in driving, speeding away after the police officers activated their emergency lights, and not stopping for it, constituted reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot, and this could serve as the basis for the investigatory stop.

According to court information, two police officers were on routine patrol in Susupe on Nov. 24, 2018, when they came across Agulto’s vehicle and drove behind it. Agulto later turned left on Pachinko Ave. from Tupak Street. 

When the officers turned onto Pachinko Ave., they found that Agulto’s vehicle had stopped in the middle of the southbound lane. Police then stopped behind Agulto’s vehicle. 

Agulto then reversed approximately 20 feet on the highway toward the officers’ vehicle, nearly hitting it then drove a few feet forward before making a right turn into a house on Pachinko Ave.

The police vehicle made a U-turn and followed Agulto.

Police said Agulto rolled down his window and raised both his hands in a shrugging fashion as he sped away.

When Agulto revved his engine, the police officers activated their police emergency light and went after him.

The officers eventually found Agulto’s vehicle parked along Bakke St. with Agulto hiding in the bushes.

After placing Agulto in handcuffs, police searched the area and found one headlamp, a case that contained a small clear Ziploc bag containing a crystalline substance, and one glass tube pipe with crystalline substance residue in it that Agulto denied was his.

Police also searched Agulto’s vehicle and found other drug paraphernalia, multiple clear Ziploc bags containing crystalline-like substances, and one branch of a “leafy” substance.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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