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State v. Griffin

Supreme Court of Maine

May 4, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
RICHARD GRIFFIN

          Argued: December 14, 2016

         Reporter of Decisions

          Rory A. McNamara, Esq. (orally), Drake Law, LLC, Lebanon, for appellant Richard Griffin

          Stephanie Anderson, District Attorney, and Amanda Doherty, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District Two, Portland, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] Richard Griffin alleges that he experienced hallucinations through which voices belonging to the "Special Forces" commanded him to attract the attention of police officers so that he could kill them. Driving while intoxicated, Griffin crashed his truck, drawing a response from the Brunswick Police Department, and resulting in a charge of operating under the influence (Class D), 29-A M.R.S. § 2411(1-A)(A) (2016). After a bench trial, the court (Cumberland County, Wheeler, J.) entered a judgment of conviction against Griffin for that OUI. He now appeals, arguing that the court erred in concluding that his trial defense of involuntary conduct-that his actions were involuntary because his behavior was caused by the "command hallucinations" he experienced-did not apply. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On January 10, 2015, in response to reports of a truck being operated recklessly, a Brunswick Police Department officer went to the intersection of Wood Pond Road and Conifer Lane where he discovered a truck off the road and on fire. There were tire marks indicating erratic operation including sliding around and doing "doughnuts." A fire truck also responded, and the fire was extinguished.

         [¶3] After the fire was out, a man unsteadily walked toward the officer and got "within one foot" of him. The man-later identified as Griffin, the owner of the truck-smelled strongly of intoxicants. He had bloodshot, glassy eyes, and admitted to having had a "couple of beers." The officer conducted a series of field sobriety tests, several of which Griffin could not complete. Based on the field sobriety test results and the surrounding circumstances, the officer decided to arrest Griffin and have him transported to the station for a blood-alcohol test. Griffin's blood alcohol level was 0.20. On January 12, 2015, Griffin was charged by complaint with OUI (Class D), 29-A M.R.S. § 2411(1-A)(A).

         [¶4] At the court's request, Griffin was subjected to a forensic psychological evaluation for "competency, criminal responsibility, abnormal condition of the mind, and any other issues involving mental or emotional condition." The psychologist reported that Griffin maintained delusional beliefs, specifically that he had been sent by Special Forces on a "secret mission to kill police." These beliefs also manifested as command hallucinations, that is, Griffin heard voices from the Special Forces instructing him to "kill corrupt police." She concluded that Griffin's history and symptoms were "consistent with the diagnoses of Schizophrenia, paranoid type and Substance Abuse Disorder." Further, the psychologist concluded that Griffin's mental illness "was quite likely to impair his ability to correctly interpret his environment and accurately assess what was going on around him" and "likely impaired his ability to consciously formulate goals, plan or take reality based steps toward accomplishment of those goals."

         [¶5] Griffin did not plead not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. See 17-A M.R.S §§ 39-40 (2016). The State filed a motion in limine to exclude any evidence of Griffin's mental state, arguing that his mental state was irrelevant because OUI is a strict liability crime. The court ruled "provisionally" that the psychologist could testify, but stated that it had yet to decide whether the testimony would be relevant to the issues in the trial.

         [¶6] During the bench trial, Griffin presented the psychologist's testimony and report to support his defense that he was not guilty because his operation of the truck had been an involuntary act. The psychologist testified that Griffin told her he had "crashed a truck ... but the Special Forces paid [him] to do it, so it can't be too bad." When the psychologist asked him why the Special Forces wanted him to do that, he said, "[T]hey've been having wicked problems with the cops, so it was a setup to see what they'd do and then I'd get them."

         [¶7] The court concluded that "voluntariness is irrelevant to strict liability crimes, " and therefore the involuntary conduct defense did not apply to the strict liability crime of OUI. The court found Griffin guilty of OUI and sentenced him to forty-eight hours' imprisonment, a $500 fine, and a 150-day suspension of his driver's license. Griffin timely appealed. See 15 M.R.S. § 2115 (2016); M.R. App. P. 2(b)(2)(A).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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