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State v. Hannan

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

July 2, 2019

STATE OF MAINE
v.
PARLEY E. HANNAN Defendant

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          Jed J. French United Criminal Court

         By motion dated January 31, 2018, Ms. Hannan seeks to suppress the results of a blood test which she claims was improperly administered because, although she had ostensibly "consented" to the blood draw, she did so because she believed she had no choice.

         The court held an evidentiary hearing on January 17, 2019. Assistant District Attorney William Barry appeared on behalf of the State, and Attorney Peter Rodway appeared on behalf of Ms. Hannan. The court heard testimony from Ms. Hannan as well as from South Portland Police Officer Kaitlyn Thurlow, and in ruling on Ms. Hannan's motion has considered the evidence adduced at hearing as well as the arguments contained in the parties' respective memoranda of law. See Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Suppress Results of Blood Test, filed March 18, 2009, and State's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Suppress, filed May 29, 2019.

         The facts are essentially undisputed. On July 14, 2017, Ms. Hannan lost control of her vehicle and crashed into a guardrail. EMTs were attending to her when Officer Thurlow arrived at the scene. Officer Thurlow heard Ms. Hannan say that she had had some wine before the crash, and the officer detected the odor of intoxicants. After Ms. Hannan was taken to the hospital for further examination, Officer Thurlow approached Ms. Hannan in the Emergency Department and told her that she believed Ms. Hannan "was under the influence" and that "she would need to take [her] blood." Ms. Hannan verbally consented and Officer Thurlow then had her sign a consent form. Although Ms. Hannan consented to the blood draw and signed the written consent form, she did so because she did not believe she had the option to refuse, having not been advised by Officer Thurlow that she had the right to withhold consent.

          Ms. Hantaan contends that suppression of the results of the blood draw is warranted because the State failed to meet its burden of showing that the consent was voluntary and not simply "mere acquiescence and cooperation, " citing State v. Boyd, 2017 ME 36.

         Boyd, however, is readily distinguishable because in that case the officer did not attempt to obtain consent for the blood test. Rather, the officer had the driver's blood drawn without obtaining any consent and without any warnings or discussion regarding the blood test whatsoever.

         Unlike in Boyd, the issue presented in this case is whether Ms. Hannan's purported consent was legally and constitutionally ineffective because she had not been told that she had the right to refuse. The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly rejected such an argument, ruling that "knowledge of a right to refuse is not a prerequisite of voluntary consent.... In short, neither this Court's prior cases, nor the traditional definition of 'voluntariness' requires proof of knowledge of a right to refuse as the sine qua non of effective consent to a search." Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 234 (1973).

         In State v. LeMeunier-Fitzgerald, 2018 ME 85, the Law Court applied Schneckloth in considering: "[W]hether, given the need to prevent drivers from operating vehicles while under the influence of intoxicants, it is reasonable to draw a driver's blood without procuring a warrant when the driver has consented to a blood test after being read Maine's statutory warnings about the consequences of refusing to submit to testing." Id. ¶ 15. In that case, the officer, reading verbatim from a warning form, informed the driver: "If you are convicted of operating while under the influence ... your failure to submit to a chemical test will be considered an aggravating factor at sentencing which in addition to other penalties, will subject you to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration." Id. ¶ 4. After receiving that warning, the driver agreed to submit to a blood test, and a blood sample was taken from her without a warrant. Significantly with respect to Ms. Hannan's contention, the Law Court expressly rejected the argument that the recital of adverse consequences stemming from a refusal to submit undermined the voluntariness of the consent provided. See id. ¶ 31 ("In sum, when probable cause exists, a warrantless blood test is not unreasonable when a driver has consented to testing after being warned that the lower limit of a court's sentencing range will increase if the driver refuses to submit to testing and is ultimately convicted of OUI.").

         Applying LeMeunier-Fitzgerald, which in turn applies the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Schneckloth, the court determines from the totality of the circumstances that Ms. Hannan's consent to the blood test was voluntary and was neither "coerced by explicit or implicit means" nor "induced by deceit, trickery, or misrepresentation." 2018 ME 85, ¶ 22, Accordingly, having found that the State has "proven by a preponderance of the evidence, that an objective manifestation of consent was given" by Ms. Hannan, ...


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