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State v. Rudy

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

January 2, 2015

DANIEL RUDY, Defendant


Thomas D. Warren Justice

A hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress in the above-captioned case was held on December 11, 2014.

The court finds as follows:

On Friday July 11, 2014 the Westbrook Police Department established a sobriety checkpoint for both eastbound and westbound traffic on Route 302. The checkpoint was approved by the Chief of Police and was supervised by Westbrook Police Captain Thomas Roth. The location was selected based on frequency of OUI arrests along that route and because the road at that location was straight enough not to present any safety hazards.

The checkpoint was conducted from approximately 9:00 pm on July 11 to approximately 2:00 am on Saturday July 12. Public notice had been given that checkpoints would be employed, including on that weekend, but no advance notice was given as to the specific date and location of the Route 302 checkpoint. The checkpoint was identified by vehicles with flashing lights, by traffic cones along the center and sides of the road, and by officers wearing reflective vests and carrying flashlights.

The checkpoint was conducted according to a standard procedure designed by Captain Roth. The officers had no discretion as to which vehicles to stop, and all vehicles were stopped except on three occasions when traffic became backed up and Captain Roth then gave instructions to wave through all cars until the there was no longer any significant delay.

There were usually three officers available to speak with motorists in both the eastbound and westbound lanes so three cars could be checked at any one time.[1] The typical interaction with a driver would last less than a minute, consisting of a brief explanation by the officer that this was a sobriety checkpoint followed by one or two questions, such as "where are you coming from?" and "have you had anything to drink?" A total of 185 vehicles were stopped at the checkpoint, and two drivers were arrested for OUI.

Measured against the standards set forth in Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), and State v. Kent, 2011 ME 42, 15 A.3d 1286, the court concludes that the State has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the conduct of the checkpoint and the initial stop of defendant Daniel Rudy's vehicle were legally valid.

Rudy was proceeding westbound on Route 302 when he encountered the checkpoint at approximately 9:50 pm, just after a number of vehicles had been waved through because traffic had backed up. At the checkpoint Rudy encountered Officer Benjamin Hall, who was the easternmost of the three officers checking westbound traffic. Unlike all of the motorists who preceded him, Rudy did not fully roll down his window to speak with Officer Hall. He rolled his window down only ΒΌ of the way. Rudy also did not answer the officer's questions as to where he was coming from or whether he had consumed any alcohol. Instead, he kept asking why he was being detained and whether the officer had any right to stop him.

At that point the two other motorists who were being checked at the same time had moved on. Officer Hall and a Sergeant who was also in the roadway then requested Rudy to proceed forward about 50 to 75 feet and pull into a side road. Officer Hall then walked forward and engaged Rudy in further conversation, during which time Officer Hall noticed the odor of alcohol, glassy eyes, and dilated pupils and Rudy told him that he had consumed some alcohol that evening. Those observations led to Officer Hall requesting Rudy to step out of his vehicle and perform field sobriety tests.

At the time that Officer Hall requested that Rudy pull out of line for further discussion, Officer Hall testified that he had seen no indication that Rudy was impaired. Hall did not testify that Rudy's failure to roll down his window more than 1/34 of the way or that Rudy's demeanor - which Hall described as "argumentative" - led him to suspect that Rudy might have been impaired. Hall also testified that Rudy could have continued driving rather than following the officer's request to pull to the side. However, under the circumstances on that evening, where Rudy had already been stopped at a checkpoint, the court finds that the officer's subsequent request that Rudy pull into the side road would have been considered to constitute an order.

In State v. McPartland, 2012 ME 12 ¶ 10, 36 A.3d 881, the Law Court held that once a motorist has been stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, a law enforcement officer cannot refer the motorist to the side of the roadway for additional screening unless the law enforcement officer has an objectively reasonable basis for suspecting that the motorist has been driving under the influence. The court does not need to consider whether Rudy's failure to roll down his window, his demeanor, and his failure to answer the officer's questions could have provided a basis for reasonable articulable suspicion because Officer Hall testified that he had no indication of impairment when he asked Rudy to pull out of line and turn into the side road. In this case the State has not met its burden of proof of establishing objectively reasonable suspicion to refer Rudy for further screening.[2]

Defendant's motion to suppress ...

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