Attorney: VALERIE RANDALL
State's Attorney: STEPHANIE ANDERSON.
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS
A. Cole, Chief Justice.
Jose Feliciano and Michaelangelo Velez are charged under
Title 17-A M.R.S. § 1107-A(1)(F)(3) with unlawful
possession of a scheduled drug (possession of over one pound
to 20 pounds of marijuana). The defendants separately filed
motions to suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop
and subsequent vehicle search that occurred on January 22,
2018. The motions were heard by the Court on September 13,
2018. The defendants appeared with counsel at the hearing.
The State presented testimony from two witnesses. Defendant
Feliciano called one witness at the hearing. The Court
admitted Joint Exhibits 1 through 4 offered by the parties
consisting of DVDs of the audio and video recordings made on
January 22, 2018, with equipment in the police cruisers and
on the persons of the State's witnesses present at the
roadside stop. State's Exhibits 1 through 3
consisting of snapshot photographs taken from the video
recordings were offered and admitted without objection.
motion to suppress was supported by a memorandum of law filed
on April 4, 2018. As agreed and ordered by the Court after
the hearing, both Feliciano and Velez filed memoranda of law
on October 12, 2018, citing the evidence and stating their
positions on the issues; the State filed a memorandum
opposing both motions on November 2, 2018; and Feliciano
filed a reply to the State's memorandum on November 9,
following facts are based on testimony and documentary
evidence admitted at the hearing including the audio and
video recordings made by equipment in the police vehicles.
State Police Trooper Patrick Flanagan was on patrol in his
cruiser on 1-295 in the afternoon on Monday, January 22,
2018. A mist was falling. The road surface was wet. The speed
limit on the highway had been reduced to 45 MPH due to
weather conditions. Shortly before 1:00 P.M., Flanagan heard
a report of a silver Mitsubishi with New York license plates
driving southbound on 1-295 in Brunswick going very slowly in
the passing lane and reportedly operated by a sleepy driver.
Flanagan, traveling in the northbound lanes of the highway,
spotted the vehicle in question as it came toward him going
in the opposite direction. He observed that the windshield
wipers were on but the headlights were off in violation of
Title 29-A M.R.S. § 2067(1). He also observed that the
vehicle was going 73 MPH in an area where the speed limit was
normally 65 MPH. He activated his blue emergency lights and
crossed over the median to reverse his direction. When
Flanagan caught up to the vehicle, he saw activity in the
rear seat area that he described as furtive movement.
Responding to the blue lights, the vehicle pulled over to the
side of the highway in Falmouth at 1:04 P.M.
approached the vehicle on the passenger side. He saw that
there were three people in it, all young males; the driver, a
passenger in the front, and a passenger in the rear who
appeared to have been lying down on the back seat before the
stop. Flanagan asked the driver if he knew why he was being
stopped. When the driver answered no, Flanagan told him that
he was being stopped for going 73 MPH in a 65 MPH zone and
for failing to have the headlights on while using the
windshield wipers as required under Maine law. He asked for
the vehicle registration and identification from all three
occupants. The driver produced a New York driver's
license identifying him as defendant Jose
Feliciano. The passenger in front produced a New York
identification card indicating that he was defendant
Michaelangelo Velez. The passenger in the back seat had no
identification document. He stated that his name was Matthew
Rodriquez and, at Flanagan's request, wrote down his
name, date of birth, and social security number on a piece of
paper. Flanagan also asked them where they had started their
trip. Feliciano stated that they were driving back to New
York from Farmingdale, Maine, where they had been visiting
his cousins. The behavior of the occupants seemed odd to
Flanagan. The two passengers were inattentive and slow to
react. They also giggled inappropriately and appeared to be
nervous. Flanagan thought that they were either high or very
initial conversation with the vehicle occupants lasted for
about five minutes. Flanagan returned to his cruiser to run
the license plate and records check on all three occupants.
Using the radio, he requested assistance from another trooper
with a drug-sniffing dog. He determined that Feliciano's
license was active. He was unable to confirm the identity of
the passenger in the back seat based on the name, date of
birth, and social security number provided.
went back to the car and told them that he was unable to find
a record corresponding to the information provided by the
back seat passenger. He asked this person to confirm his full
name and date of birth. He also asked the occupants if they
were high or had ever been involved with drugs. They answered
in the negative although one of the occupants stated that he
used to smoke marijuana. This conversation lasted for about
that "Matthew E. Rodriguez," the name given by the
back seat passenger, was false, Flanagan returned to his
cruiser at about 1:15 P.M. to continue to search for it.
After several minutes, he went back to the Mitsubishi and
explained that the stop was continuing because he was unable
to find a record confirming the identity of
"Rodriguez." Flanagan asked "Rodriguez"
if he had been lying down in the back seat when Flanagan
pulled them over. He also told the occupants that he had seen
a lot of movement in the rear seat area when he stopped them.
The back seat passenger assured him that
"Rodriguez" was his real name.
time, about fifteen minutes after the stop began, Maine State
Police Trooper Jesse Duda arrived on the scene accompanied by
his drug-detecting dog. Duda had six years of experience as a
trooper in the Maine State Police and five years with the
Kennebec County Sheriffs Department. He parked his cruiser
behind Flanagan's car. After a brief conversation with
Flanagan, he led his dog through a sniff protocol, circling
the Mitsubishi twice while the occupants waited inside the
vehicle with their hands in sight of the officers. The dog
was trained to detect the presence of cocaine,
methamphetamine, crack, and heroin, and was not trained to
detect marijuana. It did not indicate that there were any
drugs in the defendants' car. During the sniff, which
took about five minutes, Feliciano made noises that seemed to
Duda to be intended to distract the dog. Duda believed that
the front seat passenger, Velez, was very nervous because he
stared straight ahead and avoided eye contact and the carotid
artery in his neck was visibly pulsating.
Duda spoke with him through the open passenger side window,
he denied being nervous.
Duda was talking with Velez through the open car window,
about twenty minutes after Flanagan initiated the stop, he
noted a strong odor of fresh marijuana coming from the back
seat area of the vehicle. He then asked Feliciano to get out
of the car and told Flanagan about the odor. Flanagan
returned to the Mitsubishi to smell the odor. He agreed that
it was a strong odor of fresh marijuana coming from inside
the rear area of the car.
the car and out of earshot of the two passengers, Duda
questioned Feliciano about his whereabouts during the trip to
Maine. Feliciano told him that they had been visiting his
cousins and his aunt Gloria in Farrningdale since Friday,
they had no drugs in the car, and the only occupant who
smoked marijuana was his cousin Matthew, the back seat
returned to the Mitsubishi to talk with the other two
occupants. The back seat passenger said they were visiting
his uncle Mark in Farrningdale. He said that they had
attended the ...