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State v. Hodgdon

Superior Court of Maine, Waldo

December 12, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
JEFFREY HODGDON

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS

         The Defendant presented a Motion to Suppress which was heard before the Court on October 24, 2016. The State presented three witnesses who were present and participated in a search of the Defendant's home on July 17, 2015. The Defendant's motion contends that the search of the Defendant's premises, and the subsequent seizure of evidence in the nature of marijuana, was undertaken in violation of the State and Federal Constitutional provisions proscribing such activity. The Defendant further argues that he was subjected to custodial interrogations without proper Miranda warnings having been provided by the State.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Defendant resides on Tucker Brook Road in Lincolnville Maine. In response to certain nonspecific information regarding a marijuana growing operation, Maine State Police Detective, Scott Quintero, drove along the Tucker Brook Road on July 17, 2015 and observed visible buckets containing marijuana plants which were not fully enclosed by fencing. As a result of these observations, Detective Quintero drove onto the property of the landowner and made contact with the Defendant, his wife, and teenage son. Much of Detective Quintero's interactions with the Defendant were captured on a recording which was admitted into evidence at the hearing as State's Exhibit 2.

         There was a detailed discussion regarding the Defendant's status as a medical marijuana patient and caregiver. There was also considerable discussion regarding the obligations associated with compliance with the medical marijuana requirements, especially with respect to the security requirements relating to the fencing around the plants.

         After Detective Quintero's initial arrival, he was joined by MDEA Agent Walter Corey. Agent Corey testified that he observed a 6 to 8 foot wide section of missing fencing, and another area where the fence was only 4 feet high which also had two sections missing.

         Detective Quintero and Agent Corey began discussing with the Defendant whether he would be willing to consent to a search of the premises. Detective Quintero specifically informed the Defendant that he was not required to consent to a search, and that if he did not consent the officers would proceed to obtain a search warrant. Detective Quintero went on to then review a proposed consent to search form with the Defendant. Detective Quintero encouraged the Defendant to read the consent form and, again, informed the Defendant that if he was not comfortable consenting he should not sign the form, and they would proceed to get a search warrant.

         The Defendant then proceeded to fill out, with the officers assistance, the consent to search form which was introduced into evidence as State's Exhibit 1. The completed form, which was signed by the Defendant, included the location of the property at "77 Tucker Brook Road", but left the line blank immediately after the reference to area to be searched. The concluding paragraph of the form, nonetheless, authorized MDEA "to conduct a complete search of the above-described."

         At no point during the subsequent search of the premises did the Defendant in any way attempt to limit or object to any area being searched by the officers involved. To the contrary, the recording suggests the Defendant accompanied the officers throughout the areas within the Defendant's home which were subsequently searched and from which marijuana was ultimately seized.

         Subsequent to the consent to search having been given, and the initial search of the Defendant's premises having been undertaken, James Pease, a supervisor with the MDEA arrived on scene and engaged in a further questioning of the Defendant. All of the questioning of the Defendant occurred at the Defendant's home. Although not all were engaged in the questioning of the Defendant, there were four agents, in all, on-site during the course of the search and seizure of the premises. During the course of the discussions with the Defendant he was informed, by more than one officer, that he would not be arrested. The officers did not park their vehicles in a manner which would have blocked the Defendant's or the defendant's family members' vehicles. The total duration of the questioning of the Defendant is not entirely clear, but the longest file contained in State's Exhibit 2 was approximately 32 minutes.

         At no time during the course of any of the officer's discussion or questioning the Defendant was any Miranda warning provided to the Defendant.

         ANALYSIS

         1. The Search

         Under both State and Federal constitutional analysis the search of one's premises must be reasonable. Reasonableness "generally requires a warrant or probable cause, but there are exceptions to that requirement, including when the defendant consents to the search. Exceptions to the warrant requirement, including those based on consent, are construed narrowly." State v. Sargent, 2009 ME 125, \10.

         The Law Court in both Sargent and in earlier cases which have looked to determine the scope of the ...


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