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State v. Blum

Supreme Court of Maine

June 19, 2018


          Argued: April 11, 2018

          Kathryn L. Slattery, District Attorney, and Shira S. Burns, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District #1, Alfred, for appellant State of Maine.

          Joseph S. Mekonis, Esq. (orally), Law Offices of Joseph Mekonis, P. A., Saco, for appellee Roy Blum


          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] The State of Maine appeals from a judgment of the trial court (York County, Cashman, J.) granting Roy Blum's motion to dismiss the count against him alleging violation of a protective order (Class D), 19-A M.R.S. § 4011(1) (2017). The State contends that the court erred by concluding that the bail condition order prohibiting Blum from possessing a "dangerous weapon" issued by a New Hampshire bail commissioner is not a "similar order issued by a court... of another state, " pursuant to section 4011(1) (A), and therefore the State could not prosecute Blum for an alleged violation of that order. We hold that the New Hampshire order is a "similar order, " vacate the judgment, and remand the case to the trial court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On September 14, 2015, Blum was arrested and charged in New Hampshire with criminal threatening and domestic violence. He was released later that day on bail subject to a "domestic violence/stalking criminal order of protection including orders and conditions of bail" (Conditions Order), signed by a New Hampshire bail commissioner. The Conditions Order notified Blum that he had the "opportunity to be heard before a judge on bail issues within 24/48 hours"; that the "order shall be enforced, even without registration, by the courts of any state"; and that violations of the Conditions Order "are subject to state and federal criminal penalties." The Conditions Order required Blum to "refrain" from, among other things, "possessing a firearm, destructive device, dangerous weapon, or ammunition." Blum signed the Conditions Order acknowledging notice of the conditions and the potential penalties associated with a violation. Unless changed by another court order, the Conditions Order, with its prohibitions, was to remain in effect until Blum's arraignment, which was set for November 16, 2015.

         [¶3] The State alleges that on September 18, 2015—four days after his arrest and the imposition of the Conditions Order in New Hampshire—Blum went to the Kittery Trading Post in Kittery, Maine, purchased a knife, and asked the store clerk if the store had any full-face masks resembling those used by "SWAT" teams. Concerned by Blum's behavior, the store clerk notified the Kittery Police Department. After learning that Blum was still subject to the New Hampshire Conditions Order that prohibited him from possessing a "dangerous weapon, " the police stopped Blum and found him in possession of three knives, including a large tactical knife he had purchased earlier that day.

         [¶4] Based on these allegations, a grand jury first indicted Blum on December 7, 2015, for violating a condition of release (Class C), 15 M.R.S. § 1092(1)(B) (2017) (Count 1), and violating a protective order (Class D), 19-A M.R.S. § 4011(1) (Count 2). Blum moved to dismiss the charges and, after a nontestimonial hearing, the trial court (York County, O'Neil, /.) granted Blum's motion by order dated March 14, 2016. As to Count 2, the court first stated that "[i]n Maine a protective order is defined and set out in 19 M.R.S. § 4007, et seq., " apparently intending to reference the Protection from Abuse Act, 19-A M.R.S. §§ 4001-4014 (2017). It then declared that "[n]o such order was issued in this case."

         [¶5] The court also referenced "RSA 173-B:1, " and observed that "the applicable New Hampshire statutes" established a process for obtaining a protective order in New Hampshire[1] that was "substantially similar" to the process for obtaining a protection from abuse order in Maine. Compare N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 173-B:1 to:26 (LEXIS through Act 78 of the 2018 Reg. Sess.) with 19-A M.R.S. §§ 4001-4014. Again, the court stated that no such order existed in this case.

         [¶6] Although the court acknowledged that the "process for obtaining a temporary [protection from abuse] order has some similarity to a bail order in New Hampshire these are two separate processes with some different requirements." Because the Conditions Order was issued after an arrest and not pursuant to N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 173-B:1 to:26, the court concluded that it was not a "similar order issued by a court... of another state" for the purposes of section 4011(1)(A) and dismissed Count 2 against Blum. The court denied the State's motion for reconsideration but clarified that the dismissal was without prejudice.

         [¶7] On January 4, 2017, a second grand jury indicted Blum for his September 18, 2015, actions, charging him with the same two counts.[2] Blum again moved to dismiss, arguing that any alleged violation of the Conditions Order in Maine could not subject him to prosecution because the order failed to meet the definition of a "similar order" of protection "issued by a court... of another state" pursuant to section 4011(1)(A). After a nontestimonial hearing, by order dated August 14, 2017, the court [Cashman, J.) granted Blum's motion to dismiss, and adopted the trial court's [O'Neil, J.) previous order concluding that the Conditions Order was not a "similar order" of protection. With the approval of the Attorney General, the State filed this timely appeal challenging only the dismissal of Count 2, violation of a protective order.[3] 15 M.R.S. § 2115-A(1), (5) (2017); M.R. App. P. 2A(f)(2), 21.


         [¶8] This case requires us to determine whether the Conditions Order controlling Blum's behavior on September 18, 2015, was a "similar order issued by a court... of another state." 19-A M.R.S. § 4011(1) (A). We "review questions of statutory interpretation de novo." State v. Christen, 2009 ME 78, ¶ 12, 976A.2d 980. "In interpreting these provisions, we first look to the plain language of the provisions to determine their meaning. If the language is unambiguous, we interpret the provisions according to their unambiguous meaning unless the result is illogical or absurd." Maine Today Media, Inc. v. State, 2013 ME 100, ¶ 6, 82 A.3d 104 (citations omitted) (quotation marks omitted). "In applying these principles, we examine the entirety of the statute, giving due weight to design, structure, and purpose as well as to aggregate language." Dickau v. Vt. Mut. Ins. Co., 2014 ME 158, ¶22, 107 A.3d 621 (quotation marks omitted).

         [¶9] Thus, we begin with the statutory language. See State v. Dubois Livestock, Inc., 2017 ME 223, ¶ 6, 174 A.3d 308. The State charged Blum with violating 19-A M.R.S. § 4011(1), which criminalizes violations of protection orders and provides in pertinent part:

1. Crime committed. Except as provided in subsections 2 and 4, violation of the following is a Class D crime when the defendant has prior actual notice, which may be notice by means other than service in hand, of the order or agreement:
A. A temporary, emergency, interim or final protective order, an order of a tribal court of the Passamaquoddy Tribe or the Penobscot Nation or a similar order issued by a court of the United States or of ...

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