Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2017
Van Horn, Esq., Van Horn Law Office, Ellsworth, for appellant
Betty L. French.
Toffolon, Dep. Dist. Atty., Prosecutorial District VII,
Ellsworth, for appellee State of Maine.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, HJELM, and
Betty L. French appeals from a judgment convicting her of
hindering apprehension (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. §
753(1-B)(A)(3) (2017), obstructing government administration
(Class D), 17-A M.R.S. §751(1) (2017), and refusing to
submit to arrest (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. § 751-B(1)(B)
(2017), entered by the court (Hancock County, R. Murray,
J.) after a jury trial. French argues that the
court's instructions to the jury on the justification of
defense of premises, see 17-A M.R.S. § 104
(2017), were incorrect. Because a citizen is not justified in
using nondeadly force against a law enforcement officer for
the purpose of defending one's premises, see
17-A M.R.S. § 108(1-A) (2017), French was not entitled
to that instruction, and we affirm the judgment.
The evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the
State, entitled the jury to find the following facts beyond a
reasonable doubt. See State v. Lajoie, 2017 ME 8,
¶ 2, 154 A.3d 132.
On March 18, 2016, Maine State Trooper Jacob Ferland arrived
at French's residence in Verona to execute a search
warrant as part of an investigation into thefts in which
French's stepson was a suspect. During the search of the
residence, Ferland found personal property bearing the
stepson's name. Ferland informed French and her husband
that if the stepson did not turn himself in, Ferland would
apply for an arrest warrant. Later, Ferland did that and
obtained an arrest warrant for the stepson.
Just more than a week later, on March 27, 2016, Ferland, in
uniform and driving a marked police vehicle, returned to
French's residence. On arrival, Ferland knocked on the
door, thereby pushing the door open completely, announced his
presence, and stepped into the kitchen. Ferland informed
French and her husband that he now had the arrest warrant for
the stepson. After French's husband went upstairs to get
the stepson, French told Ferland to leave the house. Ferland
stepped outside the residence to call an assistant district
attorney, but when he tried to reenter the house the door was
locked. Ferland announced that he would break down the door
if he were not permitted to enter.
Shortly thereafter, the stepson exited the house and was
taken into custody by another officer. Ferland then informed
French that he was arresting her for hindering apprehension,
but as he walked towards her, French backed into the house
and put her hands in her sweatshirt pocket. Ferland followed
her into the house, pulled French's hands out, and
attempted to place her in handcuffs. French pulled away from
Ferland, retreating into the kitchen where the two became
engaged in a physical struggle that lasted roughly eight
minutes, with occasional intervention by French's husband
and daughter in support of French, until Ferland ultimately
was able to handcuff French.
French, her husband, and her daughter were charged with
various offenses as a result of the incident. For her part,
French was charged with hindering apprehension, obstructing
government administration, and refusing to submit to arrest.
She pleaded not guilty to each charge, and in March 2017, the
court held a one-day jury trial encompassing all charges
against each of the three defendants.
Without objection from any party, in its instructions that
pertained to the charges against French, the court instructed
the jury on the justifications of self-defense and defense of
a third person, and defense of premises. The
found French guilty of all three charges. The court later
sentenced her to concurrent jail terms of three days for
refusing to submit to arrest and forty-eight hours on each
charge of hindering apprehension and obstructing ...