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State v. Strom

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

November 9, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
MICHAEL STROM, Defendant

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          Nancy Mills Justice

          Defendant moves to exclude evidence of the blood alcohol test and his statements. He argues there was insufficient probable cause to request defendant to take a test and that defendant's statements used in the probable cause determination were not voluntary. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         Findings of Fact

         Deputy Peter Anderson has worked for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office since 2005. He trained at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and his training included detection of impaired drivers.

         On April 23, 2016, at approximately 11;00 p.m., he was on duty in uniform and a marked cruiser. He was dispatched to a personal injury motor vehicle crash on the Mayo Road. The crash involved a motorcycle and as many as three vehicles. Eventually a total of three marked cruisers arrived at the scene.

         When he arrived, Deputy Anderson saw a damaged motorcycle in the right ditch. A white Ford truck with very heavy front end damage had veered off the left side of the road and hit a tree. The truck was totaled, Defendant, identified as the owner and operator of the truck, was standing beside the truck. Deputy Anderson noticed defendant's hands were bleeding and he was extremely shaken up. Deputy Anderson smelled a strong odor of intoxicants coming from defendant's facial area as the two spoke. Defendant's eyes were bloodshot and glassy and he was a bit unsteady on his feet. Defendant stated he was pretty shaken up because he took a hard hit when the truck hit the tree.

         Defendant was aware that the other officers left to find the driver of the motorcycle. If defendant had tried to leave, Deputy Anderson would have stopped defendant, although that was not told to defendant.

         Defendant stated further that he and a friend had been at the Eagle's Club in New Gloucester and left together. Defendant's friend was driving a motorcycle in front of defendant. Defendant admitted the two were playing around and driving much too fast for the road. At the top of a knoll, defendant's friend slowed or stopped. Defendant swerved to avoid the motorcycle but hit it and then hit the tree. Defendant stated his friend was pretty angry and left the scene.

         Deputy Peterson asked if defendant had been drinking. He said he had had two 32 ounce pitchers of beer at the Eagle's Club. He began drinking at 5:30 p.m. and drank the second pitcher one hour before he left the club. Deputy Peterson next asked defendant to rate himself on a scale of one to ten with one representing stone cold sober and ten representing falling down drunk. Defendant stated he was a four.

         Deputy Anderson requested that defendant perform field sobriety tests. Defendant replied that he was very shaken by the crash and the truck's hard impact with the tree. Deputy Anderson asked if defendant would submit to a blood test. Defendant stated he would do anything that was needed. An officer from Gorham eventually arrived and administered the test.

          Deputy Anderson and defendant walked to the ambulance when it arrived. Defendant was not in handcuffs and was very cooperative. The rescue personnel checked defendant and his friend, who had returned. Defendant signed off and was not taken to the hospital.

         Conclusions of Law

         Probable Cause for Test

         "The probable cause standard for requiring a person to take a blood alcohol test has a very low threshold." State v. Webster, 2000 ME 115, ¶ 7, 754 A.2d 976. Defendant admitted driving dangerously, which resulted in the serious crash. Deputy Anderson smelled a strong odor of intoxicants coming from defendant's facial area. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy and he was unsteady on his feet. He admitted drinking two 32-ounce pitchers of beer, drinking the second pitcher one hour before he left the Eagle's Club. Defendant rated himself on the sobriety scale as a four. Deputy Anderson had sufficient probable cause to believe the defendant was operating the truck while his senses were "impaired however slightly" or "to ...


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