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State v. Burton

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

December 18, 2014



E. Mary Kelly Judge

A hearing was held on Defendant's Motion to Suppress on December 16, 2014. The State was represented by ADA Matthew Tice. Defendant was represented by Attorney James Boulos.

Defendant seeks to suppress all of the evidence resulting from the stop of her vehicle. She alleges that the stop violated her Fourth Amendment rights because it was effected without the requisite "reasonable articulable suspicion." She also argues that the officer did not have authority to order her to participate in field sobriety tests.

The court heard testimony from Officer Lee Maher, the officer who conducted the stop. He testified that he was on patrol in North Windham shortly after midnight on August 2, 2014 when he got a call about a fight in progress at the Big Apple on Route 302 in North Windham. The information he received was that there were four people involved in the fight and that three of them had left the store in a white Ford SUV. Office Maher spotted a vehicle matching that description about a mile or less from the store, headed in the opposite direction from him. He turned around and with his high beams observed that there were three people inside. He then conducted a traffic stop. Officer Maher smelled alcohol coming from the vehicle and observed that the driver, Defendant, had glassy and bloodshot eyes. Officer Maher asked if she had been drinking and she responded that she had had about a drink every hour. Officer Maher then ordered Defendant out of the vehicle so that he could conduct field sobriety tests.

The standard governing automotive stops is well-established: "In order to support a brief investigatory stop of a motor vehicle, such as the stop in this case, a police officer must have an objectively reasonable, articulable suspicion that either criminal conduct, a civil violation, or a threat to public safety has occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur. The officer's suspicion that any of these circumstances exist must be objectively reasonable in the totality of the circumstances." See, e.g., State v. Porter, 2008 ME 175, 8, 960 A.2d 321, 323 (citing State v. Sylvain, 2003 ME 5, ¶ 11, 814 A.2d 984, 987).

Applying this standard, the court finds that the information as to the fight gave rise to reasonable articulable suspicion justifying the stop of Defendant's vehicle. Officer Maher need not have personally observed the fight in progress in order to have had reasonable articulable suspicion for the stop. See, e.g., State v. Carr, 1997 ME 221, ¶ 7, 704 A.2d 353, 356 ("Reasonable and articulable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop can rest on the collective knowledge of the police") (citing Stats v, Gervais, 394 A.2d 1183, 1189 (Me. 1978) (holding that collective knowledge of the police transmitted by radio dispatch justified stopping a vehicle)). Furthermore, on observing Defendant's glassy, bloodshot eyes and on learning that she had been drinking, Officer Maher acted appropriately in requiring her to participate in field sobriety tests. See, e.g., State v. King, 2009 ME 14, ¶ 9, 965 A.2d 52, 54 (officer had objectively reasonable suspicion mat driver might have been impaired when smelled odor of alcohol, observed beer bottles or cans in vehicle, and driver admitted to being a "three" where "one" meant total sobriety). As the Law Court stated in State v. Sylvain, 2003 ME 5, 814 A.2d 984:

When, as here, an officer has observed bloodshot eyes and has heard an admission from a driver that the driver has had two beers, it is objectively reasonable for that officer to entertain a suspicion that the driver may be impaired by the alcohol. Subjecting the driver to field sobriety tests following that admission does not offend the Fourth Amendment

Id. ¶ 18, 814A.2dat989.

Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendant's Motion to Suppress is DENIED.

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