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State v. Pierce

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

June 7, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
FREDERICK R. PIERCE

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL

          Joyce A. Wheeler, ARJ Maine Superior Court

         This matter came before the court on defendant's motion for a new trial pursuant to M.R.Crim.P. 33, and as orally amended to include Rule 1(c). Frederick Pierce is a 17-year old recent high school graduate who expected to begin working as a heavy equipment operator with his father's excavation business upon his graduation in June 2016. On January 7, 2016, he pled guilty to the crime of Operating After Suspension, and promptly paid the fine of $250. He knew his license would be suspended but he was surprised when he received a notice of a one-year loss of license and was advised that he would not be eligible for a work-restricted license.

         In his motion, Mr, Pierce does not argue that he was not guilty of this offense or that he would have negotiated differently with the district attorney's office if he had been fully aware of the consequences of his plea. Rather, he argues that he is entitled to a new trial pursuant to M.RCrim.P. 33, and 1(c) as orally amended, because he was denied the right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment when the court incorrectly advised him of his right "to have an attorney present at trial." The State argues that the motion should be denied because defendant's motion is untimely and defendant does not point to any newly discovered evidence as required by Rule 33. The State also contends that Rule 1(c) is inapplicable because there is a specific procedure pursuant to M.R.Crim.P. 33. Furthermore, the State argues that the suspension of a license is a collateral consequence only and does not give rise to any rights.

         Mr. Pierce asks the court to grant his motion for a new trial on the basis that he was not properly advised of all of his rights at the time of his plea. He was told that he had the right to be "present at trial with his attorney", not that he has the right to be represented at trial by an attorney. And, while he was advised that his license would be suspended, he was not told that it would be for one-year and that he would not be able to obtain a work license.

         Mr. Pierce moved for a new trial well after the fourteen day deadline imposed by Rule 33, and he contends that, considered together, Rules 1, 2 and 33 of the Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure compel this court to find that a new trial is the appropriate manner through which to obtain the relief that he seeks, that is, an opportunity to move this court to vacate his conviction based on the court's failure to properly advise him of his right to counsel and based on newly discovered evidence. He argues that the lack of available relief under Rule 33 constitutes "new evidence" and he should be granted a new trial "in the interest of justice. He also argues the information concerning the length of his suspension and the inability to obtain a work license are newly discovered evidence. To the extent that his Rule 33 motion is untimely, he contends that Rule 1(c) gives the court authority to act when no procedure or remedy has been specified by any applicable rule or statute.

         Rule 1(c) provides as follows:

Procedure When None Specified. When no procedure is specifically prescribed the court shall proceed in any lawful manner not inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States or of the State of Maine, these rules or any applicable statutes.

         Rule 2 provides:

These rules are intended to provide for the just determination of every criminal proceeding. They shall be construed to secure simplicity in procedure, fairness in administration and the elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay.

         Rules 1 or 2 of the Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure do not change the analysis. Rule 1 provides a procedure where none exists in the rules. Rule 2 expresses the purpose of the Rules and notes that the rules "shall be construed to secure simplicity in procedure, fairness in administration and the elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay." Rule 2. "Rule 2, however, does not provide for the application of an inappropriate procedure where an appropriate procedure exists." Ali, 2011 ME 112, ¶ 21.

         Rule 33 provides in relevant part:

The court on motion of the defendant may grant a new trial to the defendant if required in the interest of justice. If the trial was by the court without a jury the court on motion of a defendant for a new trial may vacate the judgment if entered, take additional testimony and direct entry of a new judgment.
A motion for a new trial based on any ground other than newly discovered evidence shall be made within 14 days after verdict or finding of guilty or within such further time as the court may fix during the 14-day period. Any motion for a new trial based on the ground of newly discovered evidence may be made only before, or within 2 years after, entry of the judgment in the Unified Criminal Docket.

         Rule 33 is similarly inapplicable. The fact that Mr. Pierce did not learn until after he pled guilty that his license would be lost for one-year and that he would not be able to work is not newly discovered evidence that would make him eligible for a new trial pursuant to Rule 33. The plea judge inquired during his colloquy with Mr. Pierce, whether he was aware that his license would be suspended and he responded that he was aware and nevertheless wanted to enter a guilty plea. Newly discovered evidence includes solely evidence that bears on guilt or innocence of the accused. Sate v. Gatcomb,478 A.2d 1129. Newly discovered evidence does not include collateral consequences to a guilty plea or the failure of a judge to use a specific language when instructing on the right to counsel. Indeed, Rule 11(g) contains no prerequisites or specific language when accepting a plea. Defendant's contentions are not evidence at all that could be presented ...


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