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State v. Hughes

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

February 3, 2017

DANA HUGHES, Defendant


          Nancy Mills Justice, Superior Court


         Jury-waived trial on the motion to suppress and complaint was held on January 18, 2017. For the following reasons, the court denies the motion to suppress and finds defendant not guilty.


         Sergeant David Hall has worked for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department for 25 years. He was trained on operating under the influence cases at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in 1982. He has taken no other courses or had any additional training, except on the job training. He is not deemed proficient in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. He is trained in the field sobriety tests considered standard in 1982, On July 1, 2016, he was dispatched to a possible personal injury accident on Route 35 in Naples, Maine. As he headed south, he saw the vehicle 30 feet off the road over an embankment, The driver's side of the vehicle had substantial damage. Based on his measurements, the vehicle left the road 761 feet before it stopped. (State's Ex. 2.)

         Defendant's sister, Kathryn Hughes, was traveling on Route 35 behind defendant en route to family property on Long Lake in Harrison. Ms. Hughes lives in Winchester, Massachusetts. She has an M.B.A. from Columbia and owns a marketing consulting firm.

         She described Route 35 in the area where defendant's vehicle left the road as pretty narrow and very winding with bends and turns. When she realized the vehicle off the road was her brother's vehicle, she turned around and returned to the scene.

         The Naples rescue and fire personnel were at the scene. Sgt. Hall located a man sitting in the back of the rescue vehicle and asked what happened. The man did not answer. When Sgt. Hall asked again, the man pointed to his forehead, on which there were abrasions. When asked how the accident happened, the man, who identified himself as Dana Hughes, stated he swerved to miss a bear. Defendant told his sister he swerved to avoid a large object. Defendant also told her he did not remember if he hit a tree because he had been thrown around in his vehicle before it stopped. (State's Ex. 2, Images 1-4.)

         Defendant sometimes did not answer Sgt. Hail's questions. Defendant stated a number of times he did not hear the questions and did not hear Sgt. Hall. When defendant stated he could not hear, he stated he was "not busting [Sgt. Hall's] balls." Sgt. Hall noted defendant's eyes were blood shot and the Sgt. Hall smelled "just a slight" odor of an intoxicating beverage coming from defendant's area, When Ms, Hughes arrived at the scene, she found defendant in the rescue vehicle. He looked like he was in shock. She spoke to him but he did not respond.

         Sgt. Hall left the rescue vehicle and went to defendant's vehicle to begin the accident report. Sgt. Hall returned to the rescue vehicle and to remove defendant, who lay on a gurney, When Sgt. Hall said he had to remove defendant from the vehicle, defendant just looked at Sgt. Hall and did not get out of the vehicle. Sgt. Hall told defendant a second time to get out or Sgt.

         Hall would remove defendant from the vehicle because defendant was not cooperating. Defendant got out of the vehicle.[1] Sgt. Hall did not ask defendant if he was injured.

         Sgt. Hall asked defendant how much he had had to drink. Sgt. Hall testified on direct examination that defendant replied, "two beers" at Bray's, which is a restaurant pub that serves alcohol, On cross-examination, Sgt. Hall testified that defendant replied, "two drinks." When asked again why his vehicle crashed, defendant replied he swerved to hit a moose.

         Sgt. Hail then asked defendant to perform field sobriety tests but did not explain what that entailed. Defendant said he could. Prior to administering any tests, Sgt, Hall did not ask defendant if he had any injuries, medical conditions, problems with balance, or physical impairments that could affect his ability to perform the tests. Ms. Hughes described defendant's severe disabilities to include two damaged discs and an arthritic hip. He walks with a great deal of pain and with a clear limp while moving from side to side. He also is hearing impaired with progressive hearing deterioration.

         Sgt. Hall asked again what defendant had to drink. Defendant replied "a couple." Sgt. Hall asked what "a couple" meant and defendant did not answer. Sgt. Hall asked defendant to rate how drunk he was on a scale of one to ten with one as having had no alcohol and ten as being falling down drunk. Defendant did not understand the question and said he did not understand what Sgt. Hall wanted. ...

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