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State v. Hastey

Supreme Court of Maine

November 6, 2018

STATE OF MAINE
v.
TROY D. HASTEY

          Argued: September 14, 2017

          Todd R. Collins, District Attorney, and Kurt A. Kafferlin, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), 8th Prosecutorial District, Houlton, for appellant State of Maine

          Kirk D. Bloomer, Esq. (orally), Houlton, for appellee Troy D. Hastey

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          Majority: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] In this appeal we address the question of whether evidence of the factual circumstances underpinning a defendant's prior manslaughter conviction is admissible to establish an enhancing factor necessary to convict the defendant of the Class B offense of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants.

         [¶2] In February 2016, Troy D. Hastey was indicted for aggravated criminal OUI (Class B), 29-A M.R.S. § 2411(1-A)(D)(2) (2017).[1] The enhancing factor alleged in the indictment is Hastey's 1991 manslaughter conviction that the State alleges "involve[ed] or result[ed] from the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs." 29-A M.R.S. § 2411(1-A)(D)(2).

         [¶3] The State appeals from an order of the Unified Criminal Docket (Aroostook County, Stewart, J.) granting Hastey's motion in limine to exclude evidence of his alleged intoxication at the time he committed the manslaughter offense. The State argues that the trial court erred when it ruled that the State's proof regarding Hastey's prior conviction is limited to the face of the 1990 indictment and 1991 judgment and commitment, which do not establish that Hastey was operating while under the influence at the time of the homicide. We agree, and we vacate the court's order granting Hastey's motion in limine and remand for the entry of an order denying the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶4] On March 8, 1990, Hastey was indicted for (1) one count of manslaughter for "reckless and criminally negligent operation of a motor vehicle" causing the death of another person (Class B), see 17'-A M.R.S.A. § 203 (Supp. 1989), and (2) one count of OUI (Class D), 29 M.R.S.A. § 1312-B (Supp. 1989).[2] On May 23, 1991, Hastey pleaded guilty to the manslaughter offense and was sentenced. The OUI charge was dismissed.

         [¶5] On December 12, 2015, Hastey was arrested for allegedly operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants. He was later indicted for aggravated criminal OUI (Class B), 29-A M.R.S. § 2411(1-A)(D)(2). The indictment alleged that Hastey "had a prior conviction for a prior criminal homicide involving or resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence."

         [¶6] On April 26, 2016, Hastey moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that because the 1990 OUI charge had been dismissed and there were no findings of fact regarding the 1991 manslaughter conviction, he had not been convicted of a criminal homicide involving or resulting from operation under the influence as required to trigger the enhanced charge and sentencing pursuant to section 2411(1-A)(D)(2). Hastey also argued that if the State is allowed to present evidence that he was intoxicated when he committed the manslaughter offense, then "the State would have to, in effect, re-prosecute the 1990 charges" which would violate the "Double Jeopardy Clause's protection against a second prosecution for the same offense." See U.S. Const, amend. V; Me. Const, art. I, § 8.

         [¶7] On July 1, 2016, the court denied Hastey's motion to dismiss. Citing the "categorical approach"[3] established by federal courts to determine whether certain prior state convictions qualify as predicate offenses under certain federal laws, see, e.g., Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 601-02 (1990), the court noted that Hastey's motion to dismiss "raise[d] significant and legitimate questions as to admissible evidence and how evidence of prior convictions may be reviewed at trial."

         [¶8] On August 19, 2016, Hastey moved in limine to exclude any evidence of his alleged intoxication at the time of the 1990 offense, arguing that the admission of such proof would contravene the categorical approach and the Double Jeopardy Clause.[4] The State opposed the motion, asserting that the phrase "involving or resulting from" in section 2411(1-A)(D)(2) introduces an evidentiary element that the government must prove in the prosecution of the new case-that Hastey's prior criminal homicide (manslaughter) conviction in fact involved or resulted from the operation of a motor vehicle while he was under the influence of intoxicants. The State indicated its intention to present at trial testimonial evidence, certified records from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and "properly sworn test results from the blood test administered to [Hastey] in 1990." The court granted Hastey's motion. The State filed a "motion for reconsideration and further conclusions of law," which the court denied on October 27, 2016.

         [¶9] On November 10, 2016, after obtaining the written approval of the Attorney General, the State timely appealed the court's order granting Hastey's motion in limine and the order denying the motion for reconsideration and further conclusions of law. See 15 M.R.S. § 2115-A(1) (2017); M.R. App. P. 2(b)(2)(A), 21 (Tower 2016).[5]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Interlocutory Appeal

         [¶10] As a preliminary matter, Hastey argues that the State's appeal of the in-limine order is interlocutory and not ripe for appeal because the ruling is subject to reconsideration by the trial court and is not final until the challenged evidence is offered by the State at trial. See M.R.U. Crim. P. 12(c); State v. Brackett, 2000 ME 54, ¶ 6, 754 A.2d 337.

         [¶11] The State may appeal an interlocutory "order of the court prior to trial which, either under the particular circumstances of the case or generally for the type of order in question, has a reasonable likelihood of causing either serious impairment to or termination of the prosecution." 15 M.R.S. § 2115-A(1).

         [¶12] In our assessment of whether the State's appeal meets the requirements of section 2115-A(1), we first consider whether there is "any reasonable likelihood that the State will be handicapped in trying the defendant." Brackett, 2000 ME 54, ¶ 5, 754 A.2d 337 (quotation marks omitted). Without question, the State will be handicapped. Contrary to Hastey's contention, it is hard to imagine that the court's in-limine order would not impede the State's ability to proceed in the trial of the case. In the absence of evidence outside of the 1990 indictment and the 1991 judgment and commitment, the State will not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hastey was intoxicated at the time he committed the predicate manslaughter offense.

         [¶13] We next consider "whether entertaining the appeal is consistent with the strong public policy against piecemeal appeals and the impossibility of this [C]ourt's serving as an advisory board to trial lawyers and judges." Id. ¶ 6 (quotation marks omitted). In Brackett, we dismissed as interlocutory the appeal of a motion in limine argued on the grounds that the evidence was inadmissible under Maine Rule of Evidence 412. See id at ¶¶ 2, 7. We noted that we are hesitant to entertain appeals from in-limine rulings involving relevancy, probative value, and the prejudicial effect of evidence because "the theoretical facts presented in the motion in limine may differ from the actual facts presented at trial." Id. ¶ 7 (discussing M.R. Evid. 403). In contrast, instate v. Patterson, we determined that the appeal of a motion in limine was not premature because the justice who granted the motion was to preside at the trial the following week and clearly stated his intention to exclude the contested evidence. 651 A.2d 362, 366 (Me. 1994).

         [¶14] As in Patterson, it is appropriate for us to entertain this appeal because it is not premature. Although it is possible that the justice who granted Hastey's motion may not preside at the eventual trial, the in limine ruling was stated with finality. The court clearly excluded any extrinsic evidence that Hastey was intoxicated at the time of the 1990 manslaughter offense, thus creating a reasonable likelihood that the prosecution would be terminated.

         B. Order on Motion in Limine

         [¶15] In line with Hastey's argument to us on appeal, the court announced in its in-limine order that it "will follow the categorical approach to determine whether the required elements of the predicate offense [in section 2411(1-A)(D)(2)] are established." Applying that analytical framework, the court granted Hastey's motion and concluded that the State's proof of the enhancing factor would be limited to the 1990 indictment and the 1991 judgment and commitment because, although those documents

establish [Hastey] was convicted of manslaughter, which was the result of criminally negligent operation of a motor vehicle[, ]... [the State] cannot establish the element "while under the influence" without relying on extrinsic evidence outside from the 1990 indictment and 1991 judgment. To establish the predicate element of "while under the influence," evidence of [Hastey's] intoxication at the time of the 1990 offense would have to be offered and admitted. This would surely be a factfinding endeavor, which would unfairly require [Hastey] to defend very old and stale allegations. It is the [c]ourt's belief that is the type of unfairness and potential prejudice that the categorical approach is meant to avoid.

         [¶16] The State argues that the court erred by depriving the State of the opportunity to present extrinsic evidence at trial of Hastey's alleged intoxication because the statutory phrase "involving or resulting from" introduces a specific enhancing element separate and distinct from the homicide conviction that requires proof of the circumstances underlying the commission of the manslaughter offense.

         [¶17] We begin with a brief discussion of the categorical approach to provide a context for our assessment of the trial court's reasoning and decision. We then examine section 2411(1-A) (D)(2) to determine whether the court erred when it excluded evidence of the circumstances of Hastey's prior criminal homicide conviction.

         1. The Categorical Approach

         [¶18] In 1990, the United States Supreme Court first applied an analytical process that came to be known as the "categorical approach" to determine the meaning of the word "burglary" in a sentence-enhancing provision of the federal Armed Career Criminal Act. See Taylor, 495 U.S. at 602.[6] The Act imposed an enhanced sentence "upon certain firearm-law offenders who also have three prior convictions for 'a violent felony/" and defined "violent felony" to include "burglary." Nijhawan v. Holder, 557 U.S. 29, 34 (2009) (quoting 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(e) (LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 115-196)). Taylor entered a conditional guilty plea to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(g)(1) (LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 115-196) and, because he had four prior felony convictions, including two burglary convictions under Missouri law, he received an enhanced sentence pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act. See Taylor, 495 U.S. at 577-79. On appeal, Taylor argued "that his ...


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