ORDER ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS
Mills Justice, Superior Court
defendant seeks to suppress evidence obtained as a result of
the stop of defendant on March 23, 2019 in Brunswick, Maine.
The defendant argues that the officer lacked reasonable and
articulable facts to justify the stop of defendant's car.
For the following reasons, the motion is denied.
Curtis has served as a Brunswick Police Officer for three
years. The parties stipulated that he graduated from the
Maine Criminal Justice Academy in 2017 and he has training
and experience in drug investigation.
Curtis was trained to observe vehicle speed both when
traveling and stationary and to determine speed within plus
or minus five m.p.h. He passed the speed estimate test at the
Maine Criminal Justice Academy. His visual estimates are very
accurate, based on his experience at the Maine Criminal
Justice Academy and on patrol.
March 23, 2019 at 1:30 a.m., bar closing time, Officer Curtis
was working and was in uniform and in a marked police
cruiser. He was traveling southbound on Federal Street in
Brunswick. (State's Ex 1.) A motor vehicle traveling at
an average rate of speed northbound on Federal Street caught
Officer Curtis's attention. As Officer Curtis passed the
vehicle, the operator looked at the patrol car. Officer
Curtis made a U-turn so he could observe the vehicle's
operation. (State's Ex. 1.) As Officer Curtis approached
Center Street, he observed the vehicle accelerate to a high
rate of speed and turn left very quickly and abruptly on to
Bank Street. (State's Ex. 3.) Officer Curtis concluded
that the vehicle was trying to avoid police contact. Officer
Curtis then observed the vehicle travel at a high rate of
speed southbound through the Bank Street parking lot. The
vehicle was traveling at a speed far in excess of the 25
m.p.h. marked speed. As Officer Curtis entered the parking
lot, he observed the tail lights of the vehicle he was
following as the vehicle approached Center Street.
(State's Ex. 2.) The vehicle turned left toward Federal
Street and Officer Curtis lost sight of the vehicle.
Curtis was approximately five to ten seconds behind the
vehicle he was following. He approached Center Street and
located the vehicle. Officer Curtis observed a male, later
identified as defendant, Joseph Rusaw, walk away from the
vehicle Officer Curtis had been following. (State's Exs.
4, 5.) Defendant walked past the front entrance of a house
and walked to the back of the house. Officer Curtis pulled up
beside the vehicle and demanded that defendant stop.
(State's Ex. 5.) Officer Curtis issued defendant a
warning for imprudent speed.
Curtis did not activate his blues lights at any time because
he feared that would encourage the vehicle to continue at a
high rate of speed. Several bars are in the area and patrons
leave the bars at 1:30 a.m., closing time. Officer Curtis was
concerned for the safety of the patrons. Officer Curtis
followed defendant's vehicle because of the high speed,
the appearance of an effort to avoid police contact, and the
safety of pedestrians in the area.
defendant's destination was Center Street, the proper
route was to travel north on Federal Street, left on Bank
Street, left on Maine Street after stopping at the stop sign,
and left on Center Street. (State's Exs. 1, 3.) All
corners have stop signs and there is a stop sign at the
intersection of Bank and Maine Streets. (State's Ex. 3.)
order to justify a brief investigatory stop, "the
standard to be used is whether an officer has an objectively
reasonable, articulable suspicion that either criminal
conduct, a civil violation, or a threat to public safety has
occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur." State
v. Sasso, 2016 ME 95, ¶ 14, 143 A.3d 124 (quotation
marks omitted); see State v. Simmons, 2016
ME 49, ¶ 8, 135 A.3d 824 ("A stop is justified when
an officer's assessment of the existence of specific and
articulable facts indicating a possible violation of the law
or a public safety risk is objectively reasonable considering
the totality of the circumstances." (quotation marks
omitted)); State v. Brown, 1997 ME 90, ¶ 5, 694
A.2d 453 ("[A] police officer must have an articulable
suspicion that criminal conduct or a civil violation has
occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur, and the
officer's suspicion must be objectively reasonable in the
totality of the circumstances." (quotation marks
omitted)). "An investigatory stop is valid when it is
supported by specific and articulable facts which, taken as a
whole and together with rational inferences from those facts,
reasonably warrant the police intrusion." See State
v. Taylor, 1997 ME 81, ¶ 9, 694 A.2d 907 (quotation
marks omitted). "The reasonable suspicion standard
requires less than probable cause that a crime was being
committed, but more than speculation or an unsubstantiated
hunch." State v. Sampson, 669 A.2d 1326, 1328
(Me. 1996) (quotation marks omitted).
Curtis's stop of defendant was justified. Defendant
accelerated when the cruiser, which defendant looked at as he
passed it, turned to follow defendant. See State v.
Simons, 2017 ME 180, ¶¶ 2, 13, 169 A.3d 399;
State v. Hersi, 2016 Me. Super. LEXIS 299, *2.
Officer Curtis also observed defendant travel through a
parking lot at a speed that was unsafe because of the
potential to hit pedestrians leaving bars in the area;
defendant could have traveled on streets and obeyed traffic
control devices. Officer Curtis concluded defendant's
conduct was an effort to avoid police contact and a threat to
public safety. See Sasso, 2016 ME 95,
¶ 21, 143 A.3d 124 ("Safety reasons alone can be
sufficient [to support a stop] if they are based on
'specific and articulable facts." (quotation marks
Motion to ...