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State v. Tozier

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

May 7, 2015

STATE OF MAINE
v.
CHAD H. TOZIER

Argued October 28, 2014.

Page 1241

Order vacated. Remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

On the briefs:

Todd R. Collins, District Attorney, and Kurt A. Kafferlin, Asst. Dist. Atty., 8th Prosecutorial District, Houlton, for appellant State of Maine.

Christopher K. MacLean, Esq., Elliott & Maclean, LLP, Camden, for appellee Chad H. Tozier.

At oral argument:

Kurt A. Kafferlin, Asst. Dist. Atty, for appellant State of Maine.

Christopher K. MacLean, Esq., for appellee Chad H. Tozier.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.[*] Majority: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, and HJELM, JJ. Dissent: JABAR, J.

OPINION

Page 1242

MEAD, J.

[¶1] The State of Maine appeals from an order entered by the trial court ( Hunter, J. ) granting Chad H. Tozier's motion to exclude a self-contained breath-alcohol test result from evidence based on the court's determination that the State failed to produce a qualified witness as required by 29-A M.R.S. § 2431(2)(D) (2013).[1] We vacate the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] The following facts are taken from the record and are not in dispute. On August 19, 2012, a police officer certified to operate a self-contained breath-alcohol testing apparatus known as an Intoxilyzer used the device to test Tozier's breath-alcohol content. Before testing Tozier's breath, the officer ran a calibration check. He then obtained two separate breath samples, and the machine reported Tozier's breath-alcohol content as 0.18 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. The officer issued Tozier a uniform summons and complaint charging him with criminal operating under the influence (Class D) pursuant to 29-A M.R.S. § 2411(1-A)(A) (2014).

[¶3] On September 21, 2012, the State of Maine charged Tozier by complaint in the District Court (Houlton) with criminal operating under the influence. Tozier requested a jury trial, and the case was therefore transferred to the Superior Court (Aroostook County). On or about October 29, 2013, Tozier sent a ten-day notice pursuant to 29-A M.R.S. § 2431(2)(D) requesting that the State produce a qualified witness to testify at his trial.[2] In response, the State produced the

Page 1243

officer who administered the Intoxilyzer test at trial, but there was no other expert available.

[¶4] As the trial was about to begin on November 12, 2013, Tozier filed a motion in limine to exclude the breath-alcohol test result from evidence. The court granted Tozier's motion and issued a final order declaring that the officer was not qualified as an expert to testify as to the " appropriateness of the quality of the equipment, the chemicals or other materials involved." The State received approval from the Attorney General to appeal and filed a timely notice pursuant to 15 M.R.S. § 2115-A (2014).

II. DISCUSSION

[¶5] The State argues that the court improperly excluded the breath-alcohol test result because the statute does not require the State to produce expert testimony in order to have the results of an Intoxilyzer admitted into evidence. The State contends that subsection D of 29-A M.R.S. § 2431(2) is intended for rural areas that rely on part-time reserve officers who are not certified to operate a breath-alcohol testing apparatus. In the scenario suggested by the State, in the ordinary case, the officer who operated the Intoxilyzer would issue a certificate containing the results of the test, and then only the officer who conducted the traffic stop would have to testify. If subsection D were invoked, the officer who performed the breath-alcohol test would then have to testify as well. In response to Tozier's arguments, the State additionally argues that the Confrontation Clause of the United States Constitution is not implicated when the declarant who administered the breath-alcohol test is available to testify. We examine the State's claims in turn.

Page 1244

A. Qualified Witness

[¶6] We review questions of statutory interpretation de novo. State v. Lowden, 2014 ME 29, ¶ 13, 87 A.3d 694. " When interpreting a statute, we look first to the plain meaning in order to discern legislative intent, viewing the relevant provision in the context of the entire statutory scheme to generate a harmonious result." Id. ¶ 14. We strictly construe criminal statutes " to avoid absurd, illogical, or inconsistent results." State v. Jones, 2012 ME 88, ¶ 6, 46 A.3d 1125 (quotation marks omitted). " Nothing in a statute may be treated as surplusage if a reasonable construction applying meaning and force is otherwise possible." Lowden, 2014 ME 29, ¶ 14, 87 A.3d 694 (quotation marks omitted).

[¶7] The Maine Legislature has created a set of evidentiary rules, which can be found at 29-A M.R.S. § 2431, to govern blood, breath, and urine test results in operating under the influence (OUI) cases. Pursuant to subsection 1, such test results are generally admissible in evidence. Subsection 2 contains subsections A through K, which pertain to the use of analysis of blood, breath, and urine as evidence. Pursuant to subsection B, a person qualified to operate a self-contained breath-alcohol testing apparatus may issue a certificate stating the results of the test analysis. Pursuant to subsection C, when such a certificate is issued, and duly sworn and signed, it is prima facie evidence of the following:

The person taking the specimen was authorized to do so;
Equipment, chemicals and other materials used in the taking of the specimen were of a quality appropriate for the purpose of ...

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