Nichols gets one year probation

WESTFIELD – On Wednesday, former Blandford Selectman Robert R. Nichols saw a charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs continued without a finding after he admitted to facts sufficient to warrant a guilty finding for the charge and he was placed on probation for one year.
Judge Philip A. Contant found him not responsible for a related charge of speeding and a charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle was not prosecuted.
The charges stemmed from a May 19, 2011 incident when Nichols, 50, drove his Land Rover SUV head-on into a mini school bus carrying four students.
Trooper Mark Rogers, assigned to the Russell Barracks, was the investigating officer and was assisted by Trooper Jaime Magarian, identified as a “drug recognition expert” in the facts of the case.
The accident took place at 8:05 a.m. that Thursday morning. Rogers was the first on the scene and reported that the bus driver, who spoke Russian through an interpreter, said he was traveling south on South Street and Nichols was driving in the opposite direction, swerving from side to side. The bus driver drove to the right of the road, hoping to avoid a collision, but Nichols drove straight into the bus. No students were injured.
Rogers reported that Nichols was semi-conscious on the scene. Rogers called for an ambulance and Nichols was transported to Noble Hospital.
“During an inventory search of the defendant’s vehicle, two prescription pill bottles were found,” states the case report.
The bottles contained what Rogers believed were five different pills, all Class E substances. Three of the pills were identified as Depakote, Seroquel, and Ambien. Magarian said that the effect of those drugs was consistent with how Nichols acted when Magarian and Rogers spoke to him at Noble Hospital later that morning.
Because Nichols was not generally coherent when he and Magarian spoke to him at 11:45 a.m., he returned to the hospital at 1:30 p.m. that day to arrest him.
Rogers reported that during the first attempted interview, Nichols stated that he “should not have been driving” that morning without any explanation of why.
During that interview, Rogers did not read Nichols the Miranda warnings because, he stated, Nichols was not coherent enough to answer questions and was “on something.”
When Rogers returned at 1:30 p.m. he said Nichols was coherent and was read his rights.
“He did not sign it because he did not have his glasses,” reported Rogers.
Nichols did sign a form consenting to a blood test to determine if he had drugs in the system and said he understood he was being arrested for operating under the influence of drugs, said Rogers.
Nichols was arrested at Noble Hospital and was bailed out while he was still being treated there. He was released from the hospital without being taken to the police department.
Nichols’ attorney Thomas Kokonowski later filed motions to suppress the 11:45 a.m. interview because Miranda rights were not given. He also filed to suppress results of the blood test because he maintained that Rogers did not properly notify Nichols of his rights and Nichols did not understand he was signing his consent to a drug test. Contant agreed to suppress the interview, but not the blood test.
“The court finds the 11:45 a.m. interview was not a custodial interrogation and the officer is not required to give Miranda,” stated the court documents. “The 1:30 p.m. was a custodial interrogation and rights were read.”
The court found that Rogers properly advised Nichols of his rights and that he also understood he was consenting to a blood test for drugs.
Nichols was placed on one-year probation and must pay a $65 per month probation fee, in addition to more than $500 in other fees. Nichols was also ordered to complete a driver alcohol education program and his license was suspended for 45 days.

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