Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help

State v. Leonard
Download as PDF
Back to Opinions Page

MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT			                           Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	2002 ME 125 
Docket:	   Pen-01-412
on Briefs:	June 27, 2002
Decided:	August 2, 2002

                and LEVY, JJ.


                                                        STATE OF MAINE


                                                     THOMAS LEONARD


	 [¶1]  Thomas Leonard appeals from a judgment of conviction entered in
the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Mead, J.) after a jury trial for assault
(Class D), 17-A M.R.S.A. § 207 (1983 & Supp. 2001), criminal threatening
(Class D), 17-A M.R.S.A. § 209 (1983), three counts of criminal threatening with
a dangerous weapon (Class C), 17-A M.R.S.A. §§ 209, 1252(4) (1983), and one
count of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon (Class C), 17-A M.R.S.A.
§§ 211, 1254(4) (1983).  Leonard argues that the Superior Court erred when it
denied his motion to suppress evidence derived from (1) statements that he made
after an alleged warrantless arrest, and (2) a search of his residence conducted
before officers secured a search warrant.  We affirm.

                                                  I.  CASE HISTORY

	[¶2] Thomas Leonard's estranged wife had paid a contractor $15,000 to
construct a garage at her home.  Leonard, who lived apart from his wife, was
apparently unhappy with the quality and progress of the work.  On the evening of
February 15, 2000, Leonard appeared at the contractor's home, threatened and
beat the contractor and forced him to write Leonard a check for $15,000. 
	[¶3] The State Police were summoned and began looking for Leonard. 
He was eventually located at his separate residence in Glenburn.  Several State
Police Officers approached Leonard's residence and contacted him.  Leonard
refused to open his door.  When asked if he had been to the contractor's residence
that evening, Leonard responded that he had gone to get his money but, if
anything, "I'm only guilty of assault and you can deal with my attorney on that."
After this statement, Leonard asked the officers to leave his property.  

	[¶4]  Leonard was then observed to have what some officers believed was
a firearm.  The officers retreated from the immediate area of Leonard's residence. 
A stand-off ensued and the State Police Tactical Team was called.  There were
several communications by the Tactical Team with Leonard, but negotiations
failed.  Eventually, tear gas canisters were fired into Leonard's residence. 
Leonard fired two shotgun blasts in the general direction of some of the police
officers.  At least one shot was fired in return by the police.  Leonard exited his
residence on two occasions and, on the second occasion, was arrested by the
police.  He was then transported to a hospital after complaining of chest pains.  

	[¶5]  Immediately after Leonard was apprehended, his residence was
searched by State Police Officers to determine if any other individuals were
present and to examine the safety and security of the premises.  During this
search, a number of items were observed.  Later, after a search warrant was
obtained, the residence was again searched and a number of items were seized.

	[¶6] After he was indicted,{1} Leonard filed a motion to suppress in which
he asserted that (1) the statements that he made to the police during the stand-off
and on his way to the hospital were obtained in the course of a custodial
interrogation and in violation of the Miranda{2} standards, and (2) the items
observed and seized in his residence were the product of a warrantless search
unjustified by probable cause or exigent circumstances.  The court denied the
motion to suppress.  

	[¶7]  Leonard proceeded to a jury trial at which he was convicted.  After
his sentencing to incarceration for 32 months at the Department of Corrections
with all but 14 months suspended and 3 years probation, Leonard brought this

	[¶8] Leonard's appeal is primarily directed at the rulings by the court on
his motions to suppress.  He contends that the police were illegally at his residence
on the night of February 15, 2000, and, therefore, the events that occurred
subsequent to the illegal police presence may not be used against him.  He also
argues that, because he was surrounded and in a stand-off situation, he was, in
effect, in custody.  Because he was in custody and was not read his Miranda
warnings, he argues that the statements he made during this period cannot be used
against him.  Finally, he argues that the warrantless search of his residence,
immediately after he was apprehended, was without probable cause and exigent
circumstances.  Therefore, he argues, evidence obtained from observations in that
search cannot be used, and evidence obtained in the subsequent search, with a
warrant, was the fruit of a poisonous tree and cannot be used against him.

                                             II.  DISCUSSION

	[¶9] The State Police reasonably believed that Leonard had recently
committed a robbery by threatening and beating the garage contractor to force
him to write and turnover to Leonard a check for $15,000.  See 17-A M.R.S.A.
§ 651(1)(C), (D) (1983).  Because the officers had probable cause to believe that
Leonard had recently committed the Class A felony of robbery, 17-A M.R.S.A.
§ 651(2) (1983), the officers were legally on Leonard's property to question him
regarding the reported robbery.  With the information that the officers had, they
also could have attempted to effect an arrest of Leonard at the time.  See State v.
Foy, 662 A.2d 238, 240 (Me. 1995).

	[¶10] Certainly, during the stand-off, Leonard was not free to leave.  Just
as certainly, he was not in the custody and control of the police.  They were trying
to take him into custody, but he was resisting.  The statements that Leonard made
and the actions that he took during the stand-off, prior to his seizure by the police,
were not statements made during a custodial interrogation.  See State v. Swett,
1998 ME 76, ¶ 4, 709 A.2d 729, 730.  No Miranda warning was needed.  See id.

	[¶11] Separately, the record supports the suppression court's findings that
Leonard was not subject to interrogation, but that the statements Leonard made
while being transported to the hospital, after his arrest, were voluntary and
spontaneous, and, therefore, he did not require Miranda warnings.  See id.

	[¶12] The search of Leonard's residence is subject to a standard
warrantless search analysis.  A warrantless search is, as a matter of law,
unreasonable unless: (1) "it is supported by probable cause"; and (2) "exigent
circumstances exist requiring a prompt search, without the delay occasioned by the
need for a warrant"; or (3) the search is pursuant to another recognized exception
to the warrant requirement.  State v. Michael M., 2001 ME 92, ¶ 6, 772 A.2d
1179, 1181.  

	[¶13]  At the time of the warrantless search of Leonard's residence, the
officers certainly had probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime might be
found in the search.  See id.  Leonard had just been firing shots at them from the
residence.  In addition, there was probable cause to believe that evidence of the
prior reported robbery might be found on the scene, including, perhaps, the check
reportedly taken.  Exigent circumstances for the search also existed.  See State v.
St. Yves, 2000 ME 97, ¶ 19 n.8, 751 A.2d 1018, 1023.  A stand-off had just
occurred and tear gas canisters had been fired into the residence.  After the stand-
off ended, a search of the residence was proper to determine if: (1) any other
individuals were present and perhaps injured or restrained, see id.; (2) any other
conditions in the residence posed a threat to the safety of persons or property, see
id.; or (3) there was the potential for loss or destruction of evidence, State v. York,
324 A.2d 758, 762-63 (Me. 1974).  It was appropriate and an exigent
circumstance for the officers to assure that a residence into which tear gas
canisters had been fired, or where entry had otherwise been forced, would be
secure while a warrant was obtained to search the premises further.  Thus, the
search of the premises immediately after Leonard was taken into custody was
supported by both probable cause and exigent circumstances.

	[¶14] Accordingly, the Superior Court appropriately denied Leonard's
motion to suppress the statements that Leonard made and the items observed and
seized in both the warrantless and warrant-supported search of his residence.

	The entry is:

			Judgment affirmed.
Attorneys for the State:

R. Christopher Almy, DA
C. Daniel Wood, ADA
Penobscot County Courthouse
97 Hammond St. 
Bangor, Maine 0440l 

Attorney for the defendant:

Donald F. Brown, Esq.
Stillwater Professional Park
36 Penn Plaza
Bangor, Maine 04401

FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} . In addition to the charges on which he was convicted, Leonard was indicted on two counts of robbery, 17-A M.R.S.A. § 651(1)(B), (C) (1983 & Supp. 2001) and one count of criminal trespass, 17-A M.R.S.A. § 402(1)(A) (Supp. 2001). The jury found Leonard not guilty of the criminal trespass charge. The robbery charges were dismissed by the State after the jury failed to reach a verdict on those charges. {2} . See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). {3} . Leave to appeal sentence was denied. (SRP-01-42.)