Argued: December 14, 2017
Heather Nadeau, Esq. (orally), The Law Office of Tina Heather
Nadeau, PLLC, Portland, for appellant Eric Nobles
Christopher Almy, District Attorney, and Chris Ka Sin Chu,
Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District V, Bangor,
for appellee State of Maine
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Eric Nobles appeals from a judgment of conviction of
operating under the influence (OUI) (Class C), 29-A M.R.S.
§ 24ll(l-A)(C)(4), (5)(D) (2017), operating after
habitual offender revocation (Class C), 29-A M.R.S.
§2557-A(2)(D) (2017), and driving to endanger (Class E),
29-A M.R.S. § 2413(1) (2017), entered by the court
(Penobscot County, Lucy, J.) after a jury trial.
Nobles contends that (A) the court abused its discretion in
denying his motion for a mistrial after an officer testified
that Nobles was on probation at the time of his arrest; (B)
the prosecutor committed misconduct by (1) commenting on
Nobles's reluctance to speak with the police before and
after he was arrested and (2) asking the jury to hold Nobles
"accountable" during closing arguments; and (C) the
court erred in declining to instruct the jury on the
competing harms justification as to the counts of operating
under the influence and driving to endanger. We affirm the
Viewing the evidence admitted at trial in the light most
favorable to the State, the jury could have found the
following facts beyond a reasonable doubt. State v.
Guyette, 2012 ME 9, ¶ 2, 36 A.3d 916. On July 6,
2016, Nobles was driving his vehicle on a private camp road
with a friend in the passenger seat. At around 7:00 p.m., a
witness, who had left her camp and was in a pickup truck with
her husband and their two grandchildren, observed
Nobles's vehicle traveling toward them erratically and at
a high rate of speed on the narrow dirt road. His vehicle was
fishtailing, and they were forced to veer off the road to
avoid being hit. The witness's stepson, who drove away
from the witness's camp soon after she left, also
encountered Nobles's vehicle barreling down the road and
kicking up dust, forcing the stepson to pull off the road to
get out of the way.
The witness and her husband delivered the grandchildren to
their mother at the end of the road and then waited there for
the vehicle they had seen to pass them again so they could
take down the license plate number. After about forty
minutes, the witness and her husband heard a vehicle
approaching at a high rate of speed and saw Nobles's
vehicle traveling toward them from behind. When Nobles
reached the end of the road, the witness's husband
pointed at him and told him to slow down. The passenger in
Nobles's vehicle made a vulgar gesture with his hands and
tongue before Nobles's vehicle turned toward town and
proceeded down the road.
The witness and her husband followed Nobles's vehicle to
take note of the license plate number and to call the police.
Nobles's vehicle was traveling fast down the road ahead
of them and suddenly came to a complete stop. They stopped
their car behind his. After a couple of minutes, Nobles's
vehicle made a quick U-turn around the pickup truck and drove
in the opposite direction. While the witness was on the phone
with the police, the witness's husband began to turn his
pickup around to follow him. At this time, Nobles did two
"three-sixties" in the road and took off "like
a shot out of a gun" toward State Route 11, a public
road leading to the center of town in Millinocket.
At about 8:00 p.m., after having been notified about the
erratically operated vehicle, a Millinocket police officer
saw Nobles's vehicle turn off Route 11 into the parking
lot of a convenience store. The officer pulled in after
Nobles and was later joined by another officer. Both officers
observed that Nobles, who was in the driver's seat, had
bloodshot eyes and that there was an odor of alcohol
emanating from his vehicle and breath. He was uncooperative,
belligerent, and unresponsive, except to say that he would
exit his vehicle only if the officers brought him a drink of
water. During this encounter with law enforcement officers,
Nobles offered no explanation for his erratic driving.
After placing Nobles under arrest, the officers took him to
the police station. Once there, he refused to participate in
the standard field sobriety tests, to take a breath test, or
to sign the form detailing the consequences of his refusal.
He still offered no explanation for his actions. When asked
for his address, Nobles responded that he was homeless and
also stated, "I'm not taking your test, "
before throwing down the tube to the breath testing machine.
Nobles was initially charged with a single count of OUI in
July 2016, with complaints alleging operating after habitual
offender revocation and driving to endanger filed in August.
He was charged with all three crimes by indictment in
The court held a jury trial on April 18 and 19, 2017. During
opening statements, defense counsel informed the jury that
Nobles would be testifying. Counsel stated, "Now, my
client was not drinking and he will explain that. And
you're going to hear him talk about how frightened and
confused he was .... And my client, who is a rather meek man,
got very confused, very anxious. He wasn't informed about
what was going on. He didn't cooperate."
The witness, the witness's stepson, and the two officers
testified for the State at trial. When the arresting officer
testified, Nobles objected after the following exchange:
Q.....Now, after you went through this process with
[arresting and attempting to test] him, did you allow him to
bail or what happened from there?
A. He ended up being on probation.
Q. Excuse me. Can you just answer my question? Did you allow
him to get bail?
immediately moved for a mistrial. The court denied the motion
but provided a curative instruction, before the State resumed
examination of the witness: "I instruct the jury to
disregard the witness's last answer to [the
The prosecutor also asked both officers if Nobles ever
mentioned that he was frightened by or was being harassed by
the witness and her husband, or if he gave any explanation as
to why he was driving on a public road. Both officers
testified that he did ...