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State v. Hafford

Superior Court of Maine, Aroostook

September 11, 2018

STATE OF MAINE
v.
RUSSELL J. HAFFORD Defendant

          DECISION ON MOTION

          E. Allen Hunter, Justice.

         Pending before the court is the Defendant's Motion to Suppress[1]. For the reasons set forth herein, the court denies this motion.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         On January 5, 2018 at approximately 10:45 pm, Maine State Police Trooper Nathan Derosier was on routine patrol and was northbound on Rt. 161 in the vicinity of Cross Lake. The officer was driving his marked State Police cruiser and he was in full uniform. The weather that evening was brutally cold with blowing snow.

         Trooper Derosier observed a man dressed only in light clothing, meaning unsuitable for the prevailing weather conditions. The man was walking southbound along the edge of the road. The man was the Defendant. Out of concern for the Defendant's safety, Trooper Derosier pulled over and stopped his cruiser. He did not activate his blue lights. He got out of his cruiser and went to speak with the man. He asked the Defendant why he was out walking in such conditions. The Defendant advised that he had "rolled" his vehicle and that he was going to get help. He said that he was going to his friend's home near St. Peter's store on Rt. 161. Being familiar with the area, the officer recognized that the store and therefore the friend's home were at least several miles away from their present location. The officer asked the Defendant if he was injured and the Defendant indicated that he was not.

         Trooper Derosier asked the Defendant if he needed help and could the officer call a wrecker for him? The Defendant accepted the officer's offer of assistance. He agreed to accompany the officer back to the accident scene to wait for the wrecker. There being no other options to provide for the Defendant's safety, the officer invited the Defendant to step into his vehicle out of the cold and windy weather conditions. The Defendant accepted the offer and got in. As the Defendant moved towards the trooper's vehicle, Trooper Derosier observed the Defendant stumble slightly; the officer did not immediately find this to be significant because of the strong winds and blowing snow.

         As the Defendant prepared to get into the cruiser, the officer asked if had any weapons on his person. The Defendant simply opened his jacket to show that he did not. The officer did not otherwise seek to "pat down" the Defendant or do any other kind of protective search. He did not place the Defendant in handcuffs. He simply cleared away some items from the passenger seat of his vehicle and the Defendant got in. Soon after the Defendant entered the vehicle, Trooper Derosier could smell the odor of intoxicating liquor.

         The two men proceeded back to the location of the Defendant's vehicle. It took only a minute to get there and the two men engaged in only limited "small talk". The Defendant's vehicle was on its side approximately ½ mile from where the officer had first encountered the Defendant. The vehicle's location was close to the intersection of the Ouellette Road and Rt. 161 near a sharp corner in the road. This is a very rural area and there are very few homes and no public areas, stores or similar opportunities for shelter from the adverse weather conditions. The area was one of open fields without any adjacent protective forest to provide a wind break.

         Shortly after the Defendant got into the vehicle, the officer recognized him from two previous non-professional encounters. On one occasion, the officer had encountered the Defendant at a deer tagging station in Allagash; on another occasion, the officer had offered assistance to the Defendant and his mother in dragging out of the woods a moose they had shot.

         Shawn Merrill, a volunteer fire fighter with the North Lakes Fire Department was at the scene when they arrived. Mr. Merrill had activated the emergency lights on his vehicle. The trooper also activated his emergency vehicle lights.

         In anticipation of preparing a routine accident report, Trooper Derosier asked the Defendant for his driver's license, motor vehicle registration and his proof of insurance. The Defendant got out of the trooper's vehicle and went to get these documents. The officer also got out of the vehicle and went to take some pictures of the Defendant's vehicle on its side.

         At no time did the Defendant ask to get out of the vehicle. At no time did the officer tell the Defendant that he could not get out of the vehicle.

         The weather continued to be very cold and the officer asked the Defendant to get back into the cruiser. Once inside the cruiser again, the officer asked the Defendant how much he had to drink. The Defendant responded that he had consumed only one Budweiser beer. The officer asked if he had consumed the beer before or after the accident. The trooper testified that at this point, his accident investigation had evolved into an "OUI investigation."

         The Trooper asked the Defendant if they could move to a safer location and away from the sharp corner where the accident had taken place for the purpose of conducting some field sobriety tests. The Defendant agreed. The Trooper told the Defendant that he was not under arrest. The Defendant acknowledged that he understood this. The Trooper asked the Defendant which wrecker service he would like the ...


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