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State v. King

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

September 23, 2016

JOEL KING Defendant


          E. Mary Kelly, Judge

         A testimonial hearing was held on Defendant's Motion to Suppress on September 20, 2016. Assistant District Attorney Carlos Diaz appeared and argued for the State. Attorney William Ashe appeared and argued on behalf of Defendant Joel King. The court heard testimony from Officer Zachary Theriault, who effected the traffic stop and Defendant's ensuing arrest, as well as oral argument from counsel.

         Defendant has two grounds for his suppression motion: he argues that there was no probable cause for his arrest, such that all evidence following his arrest should be suppressed; and further seeks suppression of statements made following his arrest on the ground that they were elicited in violation of his Miranda rights.[1] When asked to identify the statements he seeks to suppress. Attorney Ashe pointed to Defendant's "no" made in response to Officer Theriault's query regarding whether he would be willing to submit to sobriety testing. Defendant contends that because he was handcuffed and at the booking station, having already been arrested at the time he refused and answered "no" (a fact which the State does not dispute), the Law Court cases cited by the State are distinguishable such that suppression is warranted.

         Defendant's probable cause argument arises from the contention that he was arrested because Officer Theriault was frustrated by his refusal to exit his vehicle when commanded to do so. The court finds that while the timing of Defendant's arrest may have been precipitated by Defendant's refusal to exit the vehicle, Defendant's argument fails to take into account the totality of the circumstances preceding the arrest. Defendant exhibited multiple indicia of intoxication prior to the stop and to his arrest. Defendant first came to Officer Theriault's attention as he drove in the Old Port at approximately 1.15 a.m. shortly after the bars closed.

          Defendant was driving somewhat over the speed limit and in a manner that Officer Theriault determined to be unsafe, given the volume of cars and pedestrians who were in the Old Port at the time. On following Defendant's vehicle, Officer Theriault observed Defendant abruptly stopping at a red light and putting a portion of his vehicle into the intersection. A few moments later, the officer observed Defendant making a second abrupt stop at a blinking light, stopping in the intersection, and it was at that point that the officer determined to execute a stop of Defendant's vehicle. After making the stop, Officer Theriault detected a "strong odor of intoxicants" coming from Defendant. Defendant's eyes were glassy, his speech was slurred, he was "very slow" and "couldn't communicate very well." He had difficulty responding to basic questions while looking for his registration. When asked how much he had had to drink, Defendant responded: "I'm not gonna lie. I've had too much." That admission was made, and the indicia observed, while Defendant was still in his car.

         Defendant's admission that he'd "had too much, " along with the other indicia of intoxication observed by Officer Theriault both before and after the stop, gives rise to probable cause as that standard has been defined in Maine case-law. As the Law Court reasoned in State v. Webster, 2000 ME 115, 754 A.2d 976:

A person is guilty of operating under the influence if his or her senses are "impaired however slightly" or "to any extent" by the alcohol that person has had to drink. For there to be probable cause to arrest someone for operating under the influence, therefore, an officer must have probable cause to believe that the person's senses are affected to the slightest degree, or to any extent, by the alcohol that person has had to drink. A reasonable suspicion to support probable cause can exist independent of any evidence of actual impaired driving.
In this case, the officer had observed a driving maneuver that suggested impaired judgment. The officer smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Webster's breath, and the officer had heard Webster make a facially incredible statement that the officer could have believed was intended to cover-up recent, more substantial consumption of alcoholic beverages. With those observations made, the officer may have been regarded as careless had he allowed Webster to go on his way without further inquiry to determine the state of his sobriety and the risk he may have posed to himself and others on the highway.

Id. ¶¶7-9.

         With respect to Defendant's Miranda-based argument, the court is not persuaded that the timing of Defendant's refusal to submit to sobriety testing (the refusal occurring after Defendant had been arrested rather than prior to arrest) takes this case outside the holding of State v. Millay, 2001 ME 177, 787 A.2d 129. Millay holds that "refusing a field sobriety test is not a testimonial act." Id. at ¶ 20. See also id. at ¶ 15 ("The fact that Millay refused to take the tests, although the refusal was manifested with the word 'no, * is admissible because it was nothing more than a refusal to provide nontestimonial evidence."). Because the Fifth Amendment prohibits the compulsion of testimonial evidence, Miranda is not implicated. See also State v, Allen, 485 A.2d 953, 955 (Me. 1984) (recitation of implied consent form and inquiries to verify comprehension "did not constitute an interrogation requiring Miranda warnings."). The court is further not persuaded by Defendant's argument that Defendant's "no" was not voluntary. Accordingly, the court finds no violation of either the Federal or the Maine Constitution,

         Accordingly, having considered the evidence in light of the governing constitutional standards, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendant's Motion to Suppress is DENIED in its entirety.



[1]Defendant's written motion challenges the basis for the traffic stop and the identification procedure as well, but those grounds were ...

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