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State v. Martin

Supreme Court of Maine

October 23, 2018


          Argued: September 12, 2018

          Darrick X. Banda, Esq. (orally), Law Offices of Ronald W. Bourget, Augusta, for appellant Christopher J. Martin

          R. Christopher Almy, District Attorney, and Chris Ka Sin Chu, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District V, Bangor, for appellee State of Maine


          ALEXANDER, J.

         [¶l] Christopher J. Martin appeals from a judgment of conviction for operating under the influence (Class D), 29-A M.R.S. § 24ll(l-A)(B)(1) (2017), entered in the trial court (Penobscot County, Jordan, J.) after a jury trial. Martin contends that the motion court (A Murray, J.) erred by finding that exigent circumstances justified two warrantless blood draws and denying his motion to suppress the evidence of his blood-alcohol level derived from the second blood draw. We affirm the judgment.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶2] The following facts are taken from the court's findings on the motion to suppress and are reviewed for clear error. State v. Cote, 2015 ME 78, ¶ 9, 118 A.3d 805. In the early morning of October 11, 2016, an officer of the Bangor Police Department initiated a traffic stop after witnessing Martin's vehicle twice fail to stop at flashing red traffic lights. The officer noted that Martin was slurring his speech. When asked if he had been drinking, Martin said that he had consumed only a single drink four to six hours earlier. After he performed poorly on several field sobriety tests, the officer arrested Martin for operating under the influence.

         [¶3] At the time of the arrest, Martin was in possession of a large amount of money, which the officer began counting on the hood of the police vehicle in Martin's presence. Martin regularly interrupted the counting process and repeatedly requested that the money be counted again in what the officer believed was an attempt to prolong the time it took to complete the count. Once the money was counted, the officer transported Martin to the Bangor Police Department to conduct a breath test. Review of the record, including a dash camera video, indicates that approximately one hour passed between the initial vehicle stop and Martin's arrival at the police department.

         [¶4] Upon arriving at the police department, the officer performed the requisite mouth check and removed Martin's false teeth in preparation for a breath test. The officer then attempted to complete the required fifteen-minute monitoring period to ensure that Martin did not belch, as belching may cause residual alcohol to be present in the mouth that could affect the results of a breath test. Martin belched during the first monitoring period, requiring the officer to restart the period. Martin belched during a second waiting period and complained of indigestion, although he had not exhibited any signs of digestive upset until that point.

         [¶5] After Martin belched again during a third waiting period, the officer decided to take Martin to Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) to perform a blood draw. The officer testified that he informed Martin that "because of [Martin's] indigestion and belching, we'd be completing a blood draw." The officer testified that Martin responded "okay" and was "compliant." The officer knew that a prompt blood draw improved the accuracy of the test results and was important in OUI investigations.

         [¶6] At EMMC, the officer gave Martin a consent form and told him that it would have to be signed for the blood draw to be completed. Martin complied with the officer's instructions and signed the form. After the blood draw, Martin was transported to the Penobscot County Jail. Shortly after arriving at the jail, the officer received a call informing him that Martin's blood draw may have been contaminated by the use of an alcohol swab. The officer transported Martin back to EMMC. Martin remained compliant and signed a second consent form before another blood draw was completed. More than two hours had elapsed between the traffic stop and the second blood draw. The officer never sought a search warrant for the purpose of drawing Martin's blood.

         [¶7] On October 16, 2016, Martin was charged by complaint with operating under the influence. Martin filed a motion to suppress the evidence from the second blood draw.[1] After a hearing on July 17, 2017, the court (A Murray, J.) denied the motion, concluding that exigent circumstances justified the warrantless blood draw.

         [¶8] The matter proceeded to a jury trial on January 17, 2018. Following the jury's guilty verdict, the court (Jordan, J.) entered a judgment of conviction and sentenced Martin to a term often days in the county jail, $890 in fines and surcharges, and a three-year suspension of his right to operate a motor ...

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