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State v. Ciomei

Supreme Court of Maine

November 17, 2015

STATE OF MAINE
v.
BRYANT A. CIOMEI

Argued: October 6, 2015

On the briefs:

Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant Bryant A. Ciomei

Matthew J. Foster, District Attorney, and Delwyn E. Webster, Asst. Dist. Atty., Prosecutorial District VII, Ellsworth, for appellee State of Maine

At oral argument:

Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., for appellant Bryant A. Ciomei

Delwyn E. Webster, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee State of Maine Ellsworth District Court docket number CR-2013-359 For Clerk Reference Only

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

HUMPHREY, J.

[¶1] Bryant A. Ciomei appeals from a judgment of conviction entered by the trial court (Ellsworth, R. Murray, J.) following his conditional guilty plea to a charge of criminal operating under the influence. Ciomei contends that the court (Ellsworth, Mallonee, J.) erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence of his roadside interactions with a game warden, on a dark November night, from the moment that the game warden parked his marked patrol vehicle behind Ciomei's truck, exited the vehicle, and announced his presence by saying, "Hi. Game warden." Ciomei contends that the court erred because he was seized at that moment, within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and that the seizure was not supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct. We conclude that Ciomei was not seized as he alleges, and therefore affirm the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] Bryant Ciomei was arrested and charged with criminal operating under the influence (Class D), 29-A M.R.S. § 2411 (2014).[1] Ciomei moved to suppress all evidence from his interaction with the game warden leading to his arrest, including the results of any field sobriety tests, arguing that evidence was obtained illegally because he was subjected to an unconstitutional seizure when the warden first encountered him.

[¶3] The District Court found that the game warden was on an early morning patrol for night hunting. While driving, he saw a vehicle parked with its headlights on in a manner consistent with night hunting. As the warden drew nearer, he saw two people outside of the vehicle, urinating. The warden pulled up behind the vehicle in a way that did not prevent it from being driven away. The warden exited his cruiser and engaged with Ciomei, the driver and owner of the vehicle. At that point, the warden observed signs of intoxication and initiated a Terry stop. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

[¶4] Viewing the record in a light most favorable to the court's decision, the court's findings are supported by competent evidence in the record. See State v. Bryant, 2014 ME 94, ¶ 2, 97 A.3d 595. Only the game warden and Ciomei testified at the suppression hearing. The game warden testified to the following: After midnight on November 20, 2013, the warden and two other officers were on patrol for night hunting. The game warden was in uniform and in a marked patrol vehicle.[2] As he drove north along Route 15 in the Sedgwick/Brooksville area, he saw a small truck stopped at the stop sign where Haracorda Road meets Route 15.[3]The truck was partially in the roadway with its headlights on. The warden believed that the lights were pointing toward a field directly across from the intersection in a manner that caused the warden to suspect night hunting activity. As the ...


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