HARTINGTON — The attorney for a Cedar County commissioner who was charged last year with driving under the influence of alcohol argued Wednesday that there was no probable cause to arrest him, among other things.
In the case of State vs. Christopher Tramp in Cedar County Court in Hartington on Wednesday, Judge Douglas Luebbe received evidence for a motion to suppress and motion to limine in the DUI charges filed on Nov. 30, 2019, against Tramp.
Acting Cedar County Attorney Leland Miner of Ponca questioned Nebraska State Patrol trooper Eric Kloster extensively about the details of the incident, presenting five articles as exhibits. Kloster’s history as an officer, his qualifications and training were reviewed and the process of the arrest of Tramp presented.
Kloster said he heard a report on his scanner from a Cedar County deputy saying he had arrested an individual but as he was returning to the county jail in Hartington, he observed a pickup in the ditch by the Highway 12 and Highway 81 intersection. Since Kloster was only a few miles south of the intersection on Highway 81, he decided to do a vehicle assist check to make sure any passengers were OK.
Kloster came upon Tramp in his pickup on the east side of Highway 81 in the ditch. He said the weather was not ideal because it was snowing, causing blizzard-like conditions. Tramp left his pickup, walked up the snow bank in the ditch and told Kloster he was fine and had already called someone for assistance.
Kloster then asked for Tramp’s license to verify he was legally able to drive. When he returned the license to Tramp, he detected the smell of alcohol, he said.
At this point, Kloster decided to administer a field sobriety test, including having Tramp walk a line. His observations led him to believe Tramp was over the legal limit, and he said Tramp admitted he had a few beers.
A breath analyzer determined Tramp blew a .156 and Kloster arrested Tramp on suspicion of DUI. When he returned to Tramp’s pickup to retrieve Tramp’s wallet and phone, Kloster said he observed four empty beer cans and one full beer can alongside a cooler in the bed of the pickup.
By this time, Dave Schurman had arrived to dig out Tramp’s pickup and move it to an entrance to a field off the highway.
Tramp was represented by attorney Luke Henderson of Norfolk, who pointed out what appeared to be several questionable actions during Kloster’s investigation.
Kloster agreed he did not see Tramp operating a motor vehicle or crash in the ditch. He also acknowledged that Tramp’s pickup was not going anywhere else that night as it was stuck.
Henderson produced a DVD with videos from Kloster’s car camera for the judge to review. After Tramp’s arrest, Kloster said he did not read Tramp his Miranda rights and indicated that he typically does not read drivers who are intoxicated their rights.
Henderson will submit a brief that supports the defense motion to suppress any observations or evidence obtained by law enforcement. Among other things, he argued that the arrest of the defendant was without probable cause and should be considered in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment privilege.
The prosecution will have 10 days to respond, after which Luebbe will determine a pre-trial hearing date and subsequent actions.
The attorneys agreed to reciprocal sharing of documents and Tramp waived his right to a speedy trial.