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State v. Lemeunier-Fitzgerald

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

August 22, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
LYANNE LEMEUNIER-FITZGERALD, Defendant

          ORDER

          Donald H. Marden Superior Court Justice

         Before the court is defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a blood sample obtained from the defendant on the basis that any consent given by the defendant was not in fact voluntarily given, was the result of duress or coercion, expressed or implied, and was otherwise obtained without a warrant in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights.

         At the motion hearing, it was stipulated by the parties that on December 21, 2015, a police officer had probable cause to believe the defendant was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant. It was further stipulated that a blood sample was taken without a warrant and there were no exigent circumstances. Finally, it was stipulated that the defendant agreed to submit to a blood test after being read the Maine implied consent law. In support of defendant's motion, she argues the findings of Birchfield et al. v. North Dakota, 579 U.S.___, 136 S.Ct. 2160, (2016)

         An officer with the Augusta Police Department was called to the parking lot at Hannaford on December 21 at 6:10 PM where he found an intoxicated female attempting to operate a motor vehicle. He noted the vehicle had pulled out of a parking space and he identified the defendant. He noted that her eyes were glassy, she had slurred speech and she presented an odor of an alcoholic drink. At the time the officer attempted to arrest the defendant, she grabbed a pill bottle and put the contents in her mouth. At that point, the officer sent for a Rescue Team and she was taken to the hospital.

         After emergency procedures were taken by hospital staff and the defendant was put in a room, the officer met with her. The officer testified that the defendant was calm at the hospital. He advised her that he thought she was attempting to operate a vehicle while under the influence. He asked the defendant to submit to a blood draw to determine the presence of alcohol in her blood. She signed a medical waiver form.

         A form titled "Law Enforcement Officer's Report Relating to Implied Consent" was admitted as a State's exhibit. Relevant to defendant's motion to suppress, reference was made to the third sentence in paragraph number 3 of the form which reads: "If you are convicted of operating while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, your failure to submit to a chemical test will be considered an aggravating factor at sentencing, which in addition to other penalties, will subject you to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration." (emphasis supplied).

         It is not disputed that the defendant was in the custody of the officer both at the scene and in the hospital. While he had removed the handcuffs from the defendant at the scene upon the arrival of Rescue, it was clear that the defendant was not free to leave the hospital without the officer's permission.

         Birchfield v. North Dakota, a decision of the United States Supreme Court, dated June 23, 2016, addresses the issue as follows:

In the past, the typical penalty for noncompliance was suspension or revocation of the motorist's license. The cases now before us involve laws that go beyond that and make it a crime for a motorist to refuse to be tested after being lawfully arrested for driving while impaired. The question presented is whether such laws violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches.

579 U.S.___, 136 S.Ct. 2160, (2016). The Supreme Court has joined for its decision the cases of Danny Birchfield, petitioner v. North Dakota, docket 14- 1468; William Robert Bernard Jr., petitioner, v. Minnesota, No. 14-1470; and Steve Michael Beylund, petitioner v. Director of North Dakota Dept. of Transp., No. 14-1507.

         In the Birchfield case, a State trooper arrested Mr. Birchfield for driving while impaired, gave the usual Miranda warnings, and advised him of his ' obligation under North Dakota law to undergo the BAC testing by a blood test. The officer further informed him, as North Dakota law requires, that refusing to take the test would expose him to criminal penalties as described by the court. On his conditional plea, Birchfield argued that the Fourth Amendment prohibited criminalizing his refusal to submit to the test.

         In the Bernard matter, the officers arrested Mr. Bernard for driving while impaired. At the police station, the officers read him Minnesota's implied consent advisory, which, like North Dakota's, informs motorists that it is a crime under State law to refuse to submit to a legally required BAC test. Bernard refused to take a breath test.

         In the Beylund case, the officer arrested Mr. Beylund for driving while impaired and took him to a nearby hospital. There he read the defendant North Dakota's implied consent advisory, informing him that a test refusal in these circumstances is itself a crime. Unlike Birchfield and Bernard, Beylund agreed to have his blood drawn and analyzed.

         The United States Supreme Court specifically granted certiorari in all three cases and consolidated them for argument in order to decide whether the motorists lawfully arrested for drunk driving may be convicted of a crime or otherwise penalized for ...


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