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State v. Martin

Superior Court of Maine, Waldo

June 21, 2018

STATE OF MAINE
v.
CORINNE MARTIN Defendant

          ORDER REGARDING MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          On February 15, 2018, the Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence regarding statements made by the Defendant directly after a motor vehicle accident, and evidence of a blood draw taken from the Defendant later at the hospital, [1] A hearing on the Defendant's motion was held before the Court on April 17, 2018. Evidence presented at the healing consisted of the testimony of Officer Eric Kelley from the Belfast Police Department, (hereinafter referred to as "Kelley"), as well as exhibits admitted into evidence.[2] The contested issue for the Court's determination is whether the Defendant voluntarily consented to the blood draw at the hospital.

          Factua1 Background

         Kelley testified that he responded to a motor vehicle accident on September 11, 2017 at approximately 1:50 AM. He observed the individual later identified as the Defendant, with injuries to her face. Kelley, who is also an emergency medical technician, instructed the Defendant not to move due to concerns regarding potential head injuries. The Defendant was subsequently extracted from the vehicle by ambulance personnel and brought to the Waldo County General Hospital for treatment.

         Kelley followed the ambulance to the hospital emergency room because of a concern about possible operation of the motor vehicle by the Defendant while under the influence of intoxicants. Kelley testified that, before the ambulance arrived, he could smell the odor of liquor while near the Defendant and also described slurred speech on her part. Although Kelley described the speech as slurred, he testified that the Defendant seemed to answer his questions appropriately, was awake the whole time he was questioning her, and he believed she comprehended what he was saying.

         Kelley testified that he waited until the emergency room staff had completed their treatment of the Defendant, and he then began talking to the Defendant again. At that time, the Defendant's mother was also present in the hospital room with the Defendant. Kelley specifically told the Defendant he needed to take a blood draw, and read a consent form to the Defendant, Although Kelley acknowledged that the Defendant was "pretty banged up" and upset at the time, he testified that she was responsive to his questions and seemed to understand them. Kelley also testified that had he believed the Defendant was suffering from a concussion he would not have completed a blood draw because of his concern that she would not have been able to have given consent.

         Although the evidence suggests the Defendant's mother participated in the discussions regarding consent to the blood draw, the Court does not find the mother pressured the Defendant to provide consent, or that the mother was acting in concert with the police. At 2:45 A.M., the Defendant ultimately signed a written consent form for the blood sample to be taken. The actual blood draw was taken approximately 20 minutes later at 3:05 AM. (States Exhibit 1).

         The Defendant's medical records from the night of the accident diagnose, in part, a head injury noting contusions to the forehead with two small lacerations. A CT scan of the defendant's brain and the cervical spine were performed and no evidence of acute injury was observed. Although the Defendant's discharge instructions included descriptions with regard to what to look for with a concussion, nowhere within the diagnosis, history of present illness, or physical exam portions contained in the medical records is there any reference to the defendant having received a concussion.

          ANALYSIS

         While at the hospital, Kelly did not subject the Defendant to any further interrogation, and thus Miranda warnings were not required or given. State v. Lear, 1998 ME 273. The issue for determination is whether the Defendant voluntarily consented to the blood draw which occurred. The voluntariness of a consent to a blood draw was addressed by the Law Court in State v. Carter, 443 A.2d 958 (Me. 1982), a case with a remarkably similar fact pattern, In Carter, the defendant challenged the consent to the blood draw which was taken in the hospital subsequent to the defendant being transported there by ambulance from the motor vehicle accident scene. In Carter, the defendant also had sustained an injury to his forehead and appeared nervous at the time of his interaction with the single law enforcement officer in the hospital. In Carter, the defendant's mother was also present at the hospital, at the time consent was given by the defendant.

         The Law Court specifically noted,

the validity of the Defendant's consent rests upon a finding of voluntariness. Voluntariness, a question of fact, is determined from all the circumstances. The State has the burden of proving voluntariness. Carter at 959. [Internal citations omitted].

         Weighing all of the circumstances in the pending case, the Court finds the officer did not act in any coercive manner. The Defendant was formally advised of the consent information, and signed the written consent form. The Defendant understood the things that were being told to her despite being a recent victim of a motor vehicle accident and under some level of intoxication. See Carter at 960 citing State v. Rhoades, 380 A.2d 1023 (Me. 1977).

         Accordingly, the Court concludes that the consent given by the Defendant to the blood draw taken September 11, 2017 was voluntary. Thereby, the Defendant's motion to ...


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