Articles Posted in criminal-defense

Maine’s Move Over Law: Safety for Police Officers and Safety for You

Saco and Portland Maine Criminal Lawyer Katherine Campbell

By: Maine Criminal Defense Attorney Katherine M. Campbell

It is well known that when you see an emergency vehicle driving up behind you with its lights or siren activated, you pull over. But one important law that many motorists fail to follow is Maine’s “Move Over” law which also requires you to move over when an emergency vehicle is stationary on the side of the road.

You’ve been stopped and arrested for Operating Under the Influence of alcohol (OUI/DUI/DWI). You posted bail, and now you’re home. You’re terrified and have no idea where things go from here. All you did was drive your motor vehicle! You cannot believe you got a first offense DUI in Maine. At work everyone asks, “A drunk driving charge? Is this your first OUI?”

What were your test results? Blood alcohol level? Breath test? Blood test? Refusal? What are the first offense OUI penalties? If this summons for OUI/DUI/DWI is a subsequent offense to other significant driving convictions, we’ll be discussing them in a future blog. But for now, let’s take a minute and talk about the Maine first DUI.

When you are charged with a first offense in Maine, you actually have two cases going on at the same time. I try to get clients to visualize two trains on parallel tracks leaving the station together. On one track you have the court (the judge, the clerks, the DA’s Office), and on the other track you have the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. In most cases, long before the arraignment date for your court case (Plead not guilty!), the Bureau of Motor Vehicles BMV (also commonly known as “DMV”) will send you a Notice of Suspension. This is where we discuss loss of license. If you have not contacted a law firm at this point, you should do so now.

DUI Marijuana Laws in MaineEven if you are not stoned, you can lose your license in Maine if you are convicted of DUI marijuana, also known as DUI weed. Maine drug law says that if there is probable cause to believe you are under the influence of some drug, and you show a positive test for a drug metabolite in your urine or hair tests, your driver’s license will be suspended.

The problem with this marijuana impaired driving law is threefold.

First, probable cause is a very low standard of proof. It isn’t even proof that something is more likely than not, it is a mere suspicion based on observed facts. How little proof is required? The case of State v. Webster, 2000 ME 115, the defendant made an illegal U-turn. When police stopped him he denied any recent drinking, but the officer smelled alcohol on his breath. The officer then gave Webster field sobriety tests which he PASSED. Despite passing the tests, Webster was arrested. His breath tested at a .10% alcohol.

alochol-300x199When I last wrote I discussed whether a warrant was needed for a breath test. I argued that a warrant was needed based on previous Supreme Court cases. I was happy that one judge agreed with me.

Well, a couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court decided North Dakota v. Birchfeld. They held that a breath test was a search, but that a warrant wasn’t needed. The Court basically said a breath test is not particularly intrusive. They concluded it can be done when someone is arrested as a search incident to that arrest. Again, one judge – Justice Sotomayor – agreed with me, that a warrant should be required.

The Court reaffirmed that a warrant is needed for a blood test. They also held that a state cannot make it a crime to refuse a blood test without a warrant because that would penalize people for asserting Fourth Amendment rights when the person insisted on a warrant. Although urine tests were not at issue, they will probably be treated the same way as blood tests, and a warrant will be required. I still think these rules should apply to breath tests, too.

 

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In 2013 the Supreme Court held in Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013), that a blood draw is a search requiring a warrant or a warrant exception. Since then I’ve been arguing that the same logic applies to a breath test. I based this argument on Skinner v. Ry. Labor Executives’ Ass’n, 489 U.S. 602 (1989) that held a breath test is a search. Skinner did not address the warrant issue because of special circumstances associated with regulation of the railway industry. Up until now I’ve had little success. Judges are reluctant to change decades of practice, even if that practice was unconstitutional. Last week I finally won a round in this fight.

In last week’s case my client was given field tests and then asked to voluntarily come down and take a breath test. He asked the natural question, “What if I don’t want to?” The officer told him that he would be arrested and taken to jail if he didn’t agree to take the test. If he agreed to take the test the officer promised to bring him home and not to jail, regardless of the test result. I moved to suppress the breath test for a lack of a warrant or warrant exception.

In a motion alleging a warrantless search, the state has the burden of proving there was a valid warrant exception. Recognized warrant exceptions are search incident to arrest, consent, exigent circumstances and a few others. The Supreme Court, in Arizona v. Gant, 129 S.Ct. 1710 (2009), limited the search incident to arrest exception to the extent that it cannot apply to breath or blood tests. Exigent circumstances are situations where it is extremely impractical for the officer to obtain a warrant in time to conduct a meaningful search, or some sort of emergency. In my case the state did not argue exigent circumstances. It is unlikely that any such argument would have been successful. Instead they focused on consent.

one_drink-300x225As a DUI defense lawyer I talk to people every month who were arrested for DUI. An alarming number of those people are truly surprised at their blood-alcohol level. Many tell me they “paced themselves” to one drink per hour. For most people this pace is a recipe for disaster.

A Brief History of Alcohol Calculations.

Scientists have studied alcohol for many years. In the early years of the 20th century a Swedish physician, Dr. Widmark, did extensive research. Based on his research he devised a formula for calculating blood-alcohol levels based on the amount of alcohol consumed, the person’s weight, their gender, and the amount of time that passed since first drinking. This formula then predicts a range for the person’s blood-alcohol level or concentration (BAC.) This is the formula that is used in virtually all smart phone calculators or the “drink wheel/calculators” sold. It is also the basis for the claim that one drink per hour will protect you from driving under the influence.

dui_seminar-300x225The Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is putting on a seminar to train lawyers to defend DUI cases.  It will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, Freeport, Maine, on August 22, 2014.  (In Maine that is OUI – Operating Under the Influence.)  I have the honor to be one of the instructors.  I am teaching Field Sobriety Testing.  Other speakers are Jan Semenoff, Matt Nichols, John Webb and Ed Folsom.

Jan Semenoff is coming from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  He was a police officer for the City of Saskatoon Police Department where he was specially trained in breath testing.  During his service with the SPD, and after retiring from that department, he was a factory trained breath test technician on many models of breath testing device.  He has published papers on breath testing and other subjects related to alcohol the science of alcohol measurement.  He is recognized as one of North America’s leading experts on the subject of breath testing.  On a personal note,  Jan trained me on the Intoxilyzer 8000, the machine used by police in Maine.  Jan will spend two hours training Maine lawyers about the 8000.

I went to law school with Matt Nichols.  That was a long time ago.  Matt is one of the very top OUI trial lawyers in Maine.  He is perhaps the most innovative OUI defense lawyer I know.  Not surprisingly, Matt will teach Creative OUI Defenses.  His approaches to exposing the attempts of the Intoxilyzer 8000 manufacturers to hide information about the machine make for some of the best and most entertaining cross-examination.  After the witness says “i don’t know” for the fifteenth or twentieth time, jurors start to catch on that the machine may not be as good as the State of Maine and the manufacturer claim.

gavel-300x201The United States has the sorry distinction of locking up a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country.  It is not that Americans break the law more than people in other countries.  We don’t. The problem lies with the idea that putting people in prison is the cure for every act we believe to be criminal.  The idea that being “tough on crime” by locking up people will make crime go away is ingrained in our politicians’ minds.  That solution to crime utterly failed to win the war on drugs.  The only thing it got us is a huge prison population at the cost of billions of dollars each year to catch, prosecute and warehouse Americans.  The vast majority of these prisoners are non-violent offenders who pose little danger to the community.

Two sets of drug laws (federal sentencing laws) contributed the most to this problem of imprisoning too many of our non-violent fellow citizens.  The first was a set of mandatory minimum drug laws based on drug quantity.  The second was the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Congress passed laws creating mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes based on drug quantity.  Before 2011 a person who sold 500 grams or more of cocaine powder faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison.  Five kilograms resulted in a 10 year mandatory minimum.  And these drug amounts were not based on the amount of drugs the person had at any one time.  The Guidelines added up the amount of drugs sold over time.  A one time sale of 500 grams of coke or the sale of two grams each week for a year both resulted in a 5-year minimum sentence.  Twenty years of these sentences did nothing to reduce the traffic in drugs.  Worse, these laws were both arbitrary and racially discriminatory.

police-search-300x200In DUI cases police routinely order people to take breath tests. For years no one gave much thought to whether such orders are legal. The 2013 case of Missouri v. McNeely may be changing that situation.

In McNeely the Supreme Court held that a warrant was required before a blood test could be taken against a person’s will. The argument went that sticking a needle into someone’s arm and taking their blood to analyze it invades a person’s privacy. Protecting personal privacy from government intrusion is the purpose of the Fourth Amendment. That amendment says that individuals are protected from government intrusion “in their persons, houses, papers and effects” from unreasonable searches.

As a general rule a search is unreasonable unless the police first obtain a warrant for that search.  The warrant must be based upon probable cause to believe the search will turn up evidence of criminal activity. A warrant is in order from a judge or magistrate that says there is enough evidence to believe a search will produce evidence of a crime, and therefore a search is allowed. When police search without a warrant it is presumed to be an unreasonable search unless it fits into a recognized exception to the warrant requirement.

supreme-court-300x237A little more than a year ago the United States Supreme Court decided a case that is having a significant effect on DUI cases around the country. In April, 2013, the Court decided the case of Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552, 185 L.Ed.2d 696 (2013). This post, and several posts to come, will look at McNeely and discuss its effect on DUI cases. This post will provide a background to that discussion.

Police in the state of Missouri stopped Mr. McNeely because he was driving erratically. After field sobriety tests he was arrested for DUI. The officer took him to the station for a breath test. Mr. McNeely refused that test. The officer then took him to the hospital where he was given a blood test, despite his refusals. The officer did not obtain a warrant for the blood test. Mr. McNeely’s blood test result was over the legal limit.

Mr. McNeely’s lawyer filed a motion to suppress the blood test result. He argued in that motion that the police were required to get a warrant to draw Mr. McNeely’s blood, before they drew his blood. Because they did not obtain a warrant that blood draw violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Mr. McNeely’s lawyer asked the court to exclude the test because of that constitutional violation.

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