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State v. Antenor

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

September 4, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
RUDY ANTENOR Defendant

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          A. M. Horton, Justice

         Defendant Rudy Antenor has filed a Motion to Suppress Results of Search and Any and All Fruits From search, seeking to exclude evidence and statements obtained by the State as the result of the March 2, 2017 traffic stop and search of the vehicle in which he was riding. Hearing on the motion commenced June 8, 2017, with Shamira Thomas as the sole witness. It continued on June 19, 2017, with the testimony of Jesse Duda, the Maine state trooper who conducted the stop and the search.

         State's Exhibits 1, 2, 3 and 4 were all admitted into evidence for purposes of the Defendant's Motion. State's Ex. 1 consists of a video recording taken from the dashboard and interior cameras of Tr. Duda's cruiser before and during the stop and search. State's Ex. 2 is a recording of the search taken from the cruiser operated by Tr. Duda's patrol supervisor, Sgt. Thomas Pappas. State's Ex. 3 and 4 are documents relating to Tr. Duda's training and qualifications as a K-9 handler, and relating to the training and qualifications of the K-9 Mack, the narcotic detector dog assigned to Tr. Duda.

         After the close of the hearing, the parties submitted memoranda on the issues, the last of which was filed August 15, 2017. Defendant's memorandum is titled Supplemental Motion to Suppress, and it presents further legal argument in support of his position.

         Based on the entire record, the court adopts the following findings of fact and conclusions of law for purposes of the Motion to Suppress.

         Findings Of Fact

         A. The Stop of the Motor Vehicle

         Around 11 p.m. Thursday, March 2, 2017, Defendant Rudy Antenor was riding as a passenger in a vehicle operated by his friend, Shamira Thomas. (The vehicle is hereafter referred to as "the Thomas vehicle.") Ms. Thomas had rented the vehicle, a Jeep sport utility vehicle with out-of-state license plates, from a commercial vehicle rental company a few days before. The Defendant had no ownership interest, leasehold interest, or other right, title or interest in the vehicle.

         The vehicle was traveling north at about the posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour in the middle of the three northbound lanes of the Maine Turnpike in Scarborough when Trooper Jesse Duda of the Maine State Police approached it from behind in his marked Maine State Police cruiser.

         The Maine Turnpike is a limited-access way with a speed limit of 65 or more miles per hour for purposes of the motor vehicle law that requires vehicles traveling on such a way to drive in the right-hand lane except when overtaking and passing other vehicles. See 29-A M.R.S. § 2052(6) ("An operator driving on a limited-access way with a speed limit of 65 or more miles per hour is restricted in ordinary operation to the right-hand lane and may use adjacent lanes for overtaking and passing another vehicle, but must return to the right-hand lane at the earliest opportunity.")

         Tr. Duda was on duty, in uniform and engaged in routine patrol. The cruiser he was driving is equipped with a forward-facing and backward-facing camera unit that can record video of both the area ahead and the cruiser interior. He has been trained and certified as a detector K-9 handler. The other member of his Detector K-9 team, the K-9 Mack, was in the back seat of the cruiser. Mack is a trained and certified narcotic detector dog. See State's Exs. 3, 4. The certificate for the Duda-Mack Detector K-9 team dates to October 2016, five months before the stop at issue.

         Traveling in the middle lane behind and somewhat faster than the Thomas vehicle, Tr. Duda's cruiser gradually caught up to the Thomas vehicle over a period of about two minutes and a distance of more than two miles. Throughout that interval, the Thomas vehicle remained in the middle of the three lanes, with no cars visible in the right lane.

         Tr, Duda's cruiser video (State's Ex. 1) depicts only the second of the two minutes during which Tr. Duda's cruiser followed the Thomas vehicle before the stop-the video thus shows the Thomas vehicle traveling ahead of the cruiser for about a mile. The approximately one minute of video before the stop is initiated does not show any vehicles in the right-hand lane. The only other northbound vehicle shown on the video during the minute before the stop is a vehicle in the middle lane ahead of the Thomas vehicle.

         Because there were no vehicles in the right-hand lane, the Thomas vehicle was not passing any vehicles and could have moved over to the right-hand lane at any time during the entire one-mile distance shown on the one minute of video before Tr. Duda activated the blue wig-wag lights on his cruiser.

         Based on his observation of the Thomas vehicle's failure to move to the right-hand lane despite ample opportunity to do so, Tr. Duda decided that the vehicle was violating 29-A M.R.S. § 2052(6), the motor vehicle law requiring vehicles to travel in the right-hand lane of a limited-access way with a speed limit of 65 miles per hour or more, except when passing other vehicles, Tr. Duda activated his cruiser's blue lights. The Thomas vehicle moved from the middle lane to the right lane and then onto the paved shoulder, with the cruiser pulling in behind it.

         As the video shows the Thomas vehicle rolling to a stop in front of the cruiser, the video also shows another northbound vehicle passing by. It is this vehicle that Defendant claims prevented the Thomas vehicle from moving safely to the right lane. However, during the two minutes during which the cruiser was catching up to the Thomas vehicle, this vehicle that later passed by could only have been well behind the cruiser (and thus even farther behind the Thomas vehicle). Thus, the vehicle that the video shows passing by as the Thomas vehicle was coming to a stop could not possibly have prevented the Thomas vehicle from moving safely to the right lane.

         B. The ...


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