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State v. Wilson

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

April 18, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
CHRISTOPHER WILSON

          ORDER ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          William R. Stokes, Justice, Superior Court.

         INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is the Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his travel bag on October 22, 2016 after he and a companion arrived at the bus terminal in Augusta. An evidentiary hearing on the motion was held on February 28, 2017 at which Officer Matthew Estes of the Augusta Police Department testified. Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, and after consideration of he parties' written submissions, the court makes the following factual findings.

         FACTS

         On October 22, 2016 Officer Estes came to his office to follow up on information he had received from another law enforcement officer concerning heroin and crack cocaine being brought to Augusta from Albany, New York. Specifically, Detective Provost of the Lewiston Police Department had called Estes and told him that he (Provost) had received information from a former confidential informant who had provided reliable information in the past, that two men from Albany, New York were coming to Augusta bringing heroin and crack cocaine.

         The informant stated that one of the men was named "Alan." The other man was referred to as Alan's "main man, " but no other information concerning him was provided. Det. Provost sent Officer Estes a photograph of the man described as Alan. The informant told Provost that the two men would be arriving in Augusta between 8 and 9 pm that night and would be traveling by bus. Officer Estes was aware that there is only one bus terminal in Augusta. He checked with the bus lines (Concord and Greyhound) and learned that a bus originating in Albany was scheduled to arrive in Augusta at 8:20 pm that night (October 22, 2016).

         Shortly after 8:00 pm that night, Estes went to the bus terminal. At approximately 8:30 pm he saw a Greyhound bus arrive. He watched as only two people (2 men) disembarked. Officer Estes was immediately able to identify one of the men as "Alan" from the photograph Det. Provost had sent him. The second man would later be identified as the Defendant. Estes watched as the two men were talking to each other and he was able to hear Alan say something to the effect of looking for "our ride."

         Estes approached and asked if the man was Alan. The man confirmed that he was and reached out to shake the officer's hand (Estes was in plain clothes), and later told Estes that he thought he was their ride. Although Estes was the only officer present at the time, he had been in communication with the Maine State Police canine unit, and a trooper with a drug sniffing dog, as well as other Augusta Police officers arrived at the terminal within minutes.

         The two men were separated and asked to put their bags down, which they did. The dog "indicated" on the bags and on both men. Following the dog sniff, Officer Estes asked the men if they would consent to a search of their bags, and they both agreed.[1] Inside the Defendant's bag the officer found a bag of rice, which contained material that field-tested positive for heroin and crack cocaine.

         Officer Estes acknowledged during his testimony that when he approached the two men, separated them and subjected their bags to a canine sniff, he had detained them and they were not free to leave.

         DISCUSSION

         The Defendant contends that Officer Estes unlawfully detained him at the bus station because the officer lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion for the detention. "A law enforcement officer can permissibly detain a citizen when 'specific and articulable facts which, taken together was rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.'" State v. Gerry, 2016 ME 163, ¶ 12, 150 A.3d 810 citing and quoting State v. Dulac, 600 A.2d 1121, 1122 (Me. 1992) and Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968). A warrant less detention, i.e., seizure, will be unreasonable unless the officer has "objectively reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal conduct has taken place, is occurring, or will imminently occur." State v. LaPlante, 2011 ME 85, ¶ 8, 26 A.3d 337.

         The court concludes that Officer Estes had ample specific and articulable factual information supporting his detention of the Defendant on October 22, 2016. Estes received detailed information from a fellow law enforcement officer that a previously reliable confidential source stated that two men would be arriving by bus in Augusta that night (10/22/16) between 8 and 9 pm, bringing with them heroin and crack cocaine. The informant identified the two men as "Alan" and his "main man." Officer Estes was provided with a photograph of Alan, which was sent to him by Det. Provost. The informant also said that the two men would be traveling from Albany, New York.

         Officer Estes contacted the only bus terminal in Augusta to determine if any bus was scheduled to arrive from Albany, and was able to confirm that such a bus was scheduled to arrive at 8:20 pm. Estes went to the station and saw the bus arrive at approximately 8:30 pm. He watched as two men got off the bus and using the photograph from Det. Provost, he immediately identified one of the men as Alan. The officer was close enough to the two men that he could hear them talking with ...


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