ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS
E. Mullen, Deputy Chief Justice
matter was heard and argued to the Court on July 1, 2019 with
respect to the Defendant's Motion to Suppress filed
August 2, 2018 The issues for the Court were reduced by
counsel at hearing to whether there was reasonable
articulable suspicion to stop the vehicle Defendant was
driving, and whether Defendant was "de facto
arrested during the stop" without probable cause to do
hearing, and after the Court has had the opportunity to
review the file, the notes taken during the hearing, and the
post-hearing briefs filed by counsel of record on July 29,
2019, the Court makes the following Findings of Fact and
Conclusions of Law upon which the Order set
forth below is based:
Findings of Fact:
February 1, 2018 at about 9:50 a.m. Officer Nathan Walker
(hereinafter "Walker") received a call from fellow
Special Agent King (hereinafter "King") of the
Maine Drug Enforcement Agency that there was going to be a
drug transaction taking place shortly, and that King was
seeking assistance from Walker. Walker had been in law
enforcement since 2003. Walker was given a description of the
motor vehicle thought to be involved, and began following
what turned out to be a silver Chevrolet Impala from Windsor
into Waterville. Other drug enforcement agents were also
following the Impala.
vehicle was followed into the Burger King parking lot on
College Avenue in Waterville. A woman exited the Impala and
met another woman who exited a Ford Explorer. The two women
got inside the Explorer for a short period of time. Then the
first woman got back into the Impala and drove away, while
the other woman went first to a red sedan, then next to a
pickup truck, all for short periods of time.
his education and experience Walker believed a drug
transaction(s) had just taken place based upon the conduct of
the two women.
While watching the Explorer the registration plate was
"run", with the information coming back that the
vehicle was registered to the Defendant. Walker had
information from a reliable informant that the Defendant was
dealing drugs in the central Maine area.
Explorer left, and Walker followed the vehicle. The Explorer
drove into Winslow, with Walker following. The Explorer
stopped at a Subway shop, where the occupants got out and
went into the shop to eat.
Walker was told the vehicle was going to be stopped. The
vehicle was in fact stopped on the bridge connecting Winslow
with Waterville after the occupants got back into the
Explorer and drove away.
Officer Daniel Ames (hereinafter "Ames") is an
experienced police officer with the Waterville Police
Department for 31 years, the last seven years with the Maine
Drug Enforcement Agency. He was another officer who followed
the Explorer to Subway. While the occupants were in Subway
Ames was told by his superior that the vehicle's
occupants had engaged in a drug deal, that there were
"pre-marked bills" in the vehicle, and that the
vehicle should be stopped.
vehicle was thereafter stopped by law enforcement with their
blue lights on their vehicles activated. The officers
approached the vehicle at gunpoint and ordered the occupants
out of the vehicle. The Defendant was shortly handcuffed
thereafter. The Defendant was found with a large wad of
money, some of which were pre-marked bills. A drug-sniffing
dog was brought to the scene of the stop by law enforcement.
The woman (Ms. McNeil) initially denied possessing any drugs.
When advised that the dog was going to "sniff" her
to ascertain whether drugs were present on her, Ms. McNeil
turned over a quantity of material that the officers believed
were illegal drugs from her person, informing the officers that
the Defendant had passed the drugs to her after seeing the
law enforcement officers. The suspected drugs were not
field-tested. Law enforcement subsequently conducted a
"canine sniff" of the vehicle that resulted in the
suspicion that drugs were present. The dog "hit" on
the passenger side of the vehicle.
Conclusions of Law:
Defendant challenges the conclusion that there was
reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop the Defendant's
vehicle while it was on the bridge connecting Waterville and
Winslow. The Defendant also contends that his interaction
with the police after the stop of his vehicle amounted to a
de facto arrest ...