CRIMINAL LAW Search and SeizurePosted by BS - 05/10/10 at 01:10 pm
State v. Donatelli, 2010 ME 43, 995 A.2d 238, Jabar, J.
The Law Court upheld the denial of a motion to suppress evidence on the ground that it did not result from an illegal de facto arrest. The defendant was stopped on the Maine Turnpike and four to five officers were present. The defendant had a passenger, and both were asked to get out of the vehicle but were not handcuffed. Although there were several officers around, the defendant was calm and permitted the officers to search the car. The initial sniff test by a dog confirmed the presence of drugs, and they were found in the car.
The Law Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the presence of a substantial number of officers turned the stop into a de facto arrest. The Law Court pointed out that whether there is an investigatory stop is very fact-sensitive. The defendant conceded reasonable suspicion so the only question was whether the action taken by the police was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference. The Court found that the stop was justified considering the significant State interest in detecting illegal drugs and ensuring officer safety, which is a particular concern with investigative traffic stops.