ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
E. Walker Justice, Superior Court
Defendant, having been charged with Failure to Report
Accident (E) and Violation of Condition of Release (E), moves
to dismiss the charges under the court's authority to do
so by way of the so-called de minimis statute. 17-A M.R.S.A
§12. The parties have agreed that the court may refer to
the police reports. The parties do not appear to contest any
underlying factual issue that may inform the de minimis
analysis, but rather argue whether these facts and
surrounding circumstances leading to Mr. Peacock's
criminal charges should constitute a de minimis infraction
leading to a dismissal.
was operating a vehicle registered to him in the early
morning hours of March 5, 2018 when, as a result of his
admittedly driving "way too fast" the vehicle
appears to have left the roadway and crashed into a railroad
embankment off the public road. Yarmouth Police officers
deduced from Mr. Peacock's tracks that he ran from the
scene, only to report his transgression some six hours later.
Mr. Peacock explained that he failed to immediately report
the accident, not because of his ignorance of the law, which
would not be germane to the present motion in any case, but
rather because his phone was not working. That representation
seems somewhat undermined by the fact that at the time of his
explanation to the police officer, he was holding his phone
intact. Mr. Peacock was also in near proximity to several
alternative means to report the accident, as it occurred near
the center of Yarmouth village. More troubling, and
revealing, to the court is the six hours it took for Mr.
Peacock to report the accident.
minimis statute should be applied sparingly and in the most
patently obvious cases where the conduct and surrounding
circumstances can leave little doubt that a mechanical
application of the criminal statute would be unjust as
falling outside the intent of the Legislature. This is
necessary as a matter of basic civics and fidelity to our
constitutional architecture, precisely because the statute
itself authorizes an immodest judicial review of legislative
intent rather than simply the law as written, which is
whatever any particular judge might believe it to be based
not on any objective indicia but merely a guess grounded upon
a personal policy preference. If that were not enough, the
statute also invites the court to determine "customary
license and tolerance" given to certain conduct, which
may otherwise be a violation of the law as written but in the
view of an unelected judge should not be. As fashionable as
this exercise of judicial vanity has become, whether
authorized by statute or not, the facts and circumstances of
this case happily do not make for a close call.
may be an extraordinary case which presents a Venn diagram
intersection of facts so clearly deserving of a dismissal and
facts which the State nevertheless is insistent on
prosecuting. However, as a matter of practical observation
and experience, one must conclude that the foregoing species
of cases, which might otherwise foist on the court the burden
of divining legislative intent and acceptable illegal
behavior, are as rare as a unicorn. This is not that case.
Peacock was on bail for Trafficking in Scheduled Drugs and
Aggravated Trafficking in Scheduled Drugs, for which he has
since pled guilty and for which he is on probation. Mr.
Peacock did not deny his knowledge of the requirement to
report an accident, only and unbelievably, that he
couldn't find an operational means of communication for
the six hours after the accident from the not-so-remote
downtown Yarmouth area. Mr. Peacock was leaving a
friend's house in the Oakwood neighborhood before 5 a.m.
at the time of the crash. At the very least, the requirement
to report should have been apparent to him in light of the
damage to his vehicle and the need for a tow truck. Mr.
Peacock, on bail conditions at the time, should also have
known that he would be under scrutiny by law enforcement and
that failure to fastidiously comply with bail conditions
could lead to additional criminal charges. The court
concludes that Mr. Peacock was acutely aware of his
situation, which is why he ran from the accident and reported
it six hours later. The raison d'etre of the requirement
to report an accident is obvious and manifold. As an initial
matter, it allows law enforcement to investigate the cause of
the accident, whether any crimes were committed that caused
the accident, and to prevent criminal conduct from being
concealed by, for example, by running from the scene and
showing up to report six hours later. State v.
Kargar, 679 A.2d 81, 84 (Me. 1996) (factors to be
considered by the trial court in evaluating a de minimis
arguments are appropriately directed to the State and to the
court in fashioning an appropriate sentence as this case
works its way to a final resolution.
Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.
Clerk is directed to enter this Order on the unified criminal
docket by reference pursuant to Maine Rule of Unified
Criminal Procedure 53(a).
 It appears the Law Court takes the
position that one factor to consider in de minimis cases is
whether the defendant knew or should have known of the
illegality of his conduct. The Court also enumerates several
qualitative considerations for the court, such as the impact
on the community by the criminal offense and the "harm
or evil caused by the infraction." State v.
Kargar,679 A.2d 81, 84 (Me. 1996). It is not clear how
the defendant's knowledge of the law or its penalties can
co-exist with the axiomatic rule that ignorance of the law
"excuses no one." Jenks v. Mathews, 31 Me.
318, 320 (1850) ("It is a well known maxim that
ignorance of law will not furnish an excuse for any person,
either for a breach or an omission of duty." (quotation
marks omitted)). It is even less clear under what remarkable
circumstances the Superior Court is authorized the indulgence
of acting as an unelected super-legislature in deciding that
conduct made criminal by the first branch of government
should be suspended because of what the court thinks the