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State v. Margaretha Bjorkaryd-Bradbury
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	2002 ME 44
Docket:	Cum-01-496
Argued :	February 5, 2002
Decided:	March 27, 2002




	[¶1]  Margaretha Bjorkaryd-Bradbury appeals from a judgment of
conviction of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of
intoxicants (OUI) in violation of 29-A M.R.S.A. § 2411 (1996){1} entered in the
Superior Court (Cumberland County, Delahanty J.) following Bradbury's
conditional guilty plea after the denial of her motion to suppress evidence in
the District Court (Portland, Horton J.).  Bradbury contends that the District
Court erred by denying her motion to suppress evidence of her intoxication
because the roadblock at which she was stopped violated 29-A M.R.S.A.
§ 2081(4)(E) (1996 & Supp. 2001), which places restrictions on the enforcement
of the seatbelt law, and was unconstitutional.  We find Bradbury's contentions
unpersuasive and affirm the judgment.
	[¶2]  Between 3:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Friday, November 24, 2000, the
Scarborough Police Department conducted a roadblock on the Payne Road in
Scarborough.  Although the Department's log sheets described the roadblock as
a "seatbelt roadblock," only one purpose of the roadblock was to check vehicles
for seatbelt violations and remind motorists of the importance of complying
with Maine's seatbelt law.  The officers were checking for any type of motor
vehicle or traffic safety violation, such as registration or inspection violations
and equipment defects.   
	[¶3]  All vehicles traveling south on the Payne Road were stopped.  As
each car came to a stop, an officer approached the vehicle and handed the
motorist a card that gave a brief explanation on why the Scarborough Police
Department was conducting the stop.  This exchange took between ten to
fifteen seconds.  An officer then inspected the vehicle for any defects or expired
registration or inspections, and briefly spoke with the driver.  The check lasted
only a couple of minutes.
	[¶4]  The officers relied on their prior training and experience with
roadblocks in performing the tasks assigned to them.  They understood that if,
after the stops were made, they developed a reasonable suspicion that the
motorist was breaking the law or committing a crime they could take further
steps to determine whether to issue a summons or whether probable cause
existed to make an arrest.
	[¶5]  According to the roadblock log, 1,020 vehicles were stopped at the
roadblock.  Two arrests for operating under the influence were made.  Two
drug-related summonses, six equipment defect notices, fourteen warnings, five
seatbelt violation summonses, and three summonses for expired registrations
or inspections were issued.
	[¶6]  At about 5:00 p.m., Bradbury's vehicle was stopped.  She was the
only occupant of her vehicle.  An officer approached her vehicle, observed that
her window was rolled down only a few inches, and decided to detain her
further in another area rather than allowing her to pass through the
	[¶7]  Bradbury was subsequently charged with OUI.  She filed a motion
to suppress arguing that the roadblock was unconstitutional and in violation
of 29-A M.R.S.A. § 2081(4)(E).  The District Court denied the motion.  The case
was then transferred to the Superior Court where Bradbury entered a
conditional guilty plea.  This appeal followed.
	[¶8]  Bradbury makes the same arguments she made in her motion to
suppress.  She first argues that the roadblock was an unlawful "seatbelt
roadblock" in violation of 29-A M.R.S.A. § 2081(4)(E).  Relying on City of
Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000), Bradbury also argues that the
roadblock constitutes an unreasonable seizure in violation of her rights under
the United States and Maine constitutions because the primary purpose of the
roadblock was illegal. 
	[¶9]  Motions to suppress are reviewed for errors of law, with factual
findings reviewed for clear error.  State v. Anderson, 1999 ME 18, ¶ 6, 724 A.2d
1231, 1233.  Statutory construction is a question of law, and we review the
trial court's construction of a statute de novo.  Great Northern Paper v.
Penobscot Nation, 2001 ME 68, ¶ 14, 770 A.2d 574, 580.  Our main objective in
statutory interpretation is to give effect to the Legislature's intent.  Id. ¶ 15,
779 A.2d at 580.  To determine that intent, we look first to the statute's plain
meaning and, if there is ambiguity, we then look beyond that language to the
legislative history.  Id.	
	[¶10]  Section 2081(3-A) mandates that passengers in, and operators of
automobiles must be "properly secured in a seatbelt."  29-A M.R.S.A. § 2081(3-
A).  Section 2081(4)(E) states that section 2081(3-A) "may be enforced only if a
law enforcement officer has detained the operator of a motor vehicle for a
suspected violation of another law."  Id. § 2081(4)(E).  
	[¶11]  Contrary to Bradbury's contention, section 2081(4)(E) does not
prohibit roadblocks that check for general motor vehicle safety violations.  The
trial court found that the roadblock had a broad "safety focus that included,
but was not limited to, seatbelt violations."  This finding is well supported by
the evidence.  See State v. Langill, 567 A.2d 440, 443-44 (Me. 1989) (findings of
fact must be affirmed on appeal if there is any competent evidence in the record
to support them).  The roadblock did not violate section 2081(4)(E).
	[¶12]  In Edmond, the City of Indianapolis conducted "vehicle
checkpoints on Indianapolis roads in an effort to interdict unlawful drugs." 
531 U.S. at 34.  The Supreme Court focused on the "primary purpose" of the
roadblock and held that the drug interdiction roadblock violated the Fourth
Amendment because its primary purpose was indistinguishable from the City's
general interest in crime control.  Id. at 48.  While the Court did not "limit the
purposes that may justify a checkpoint program to any rigid set of categories,"
it declined "to approve a program whose primary purpose is ultimately
indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control."  Id. 
	[¶13]  The Court's holding in Edmond was limited.  The Court was
careful to explain that its invalidation of the roadblock in that case left
undisturbed prior decisions permitting roadblocks for the purpose of enforcing
the motor vehicle laws:
It goes without saying that our holding today does nothing to alter
the constitutional status of the sobriety and border checkpoints
that we approved in [Michigan Department of Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S.
494 (1990),] and [United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543
(1976),] or of the type of traffic checkpoint that we suggested would
be lawful in [Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979)].  The
constitutionality of such checkpoint programs still depends on a
balancing of the competing interests at stake and the effectiveness
of the program.
Id. at 47.
	[¶14]  In Prouse, the Court stated that roadblocks to verify drivers
licenses and registrations, that are minimally intrusive and that do not involve
the unconstrained exercise of discretion, are permissible to serve a highway
safety interest.  Prouse, 440 U.S. at 663.
	[¶15]  The fundamental question pursuant to the federal and state
constitutions is "whether the action of the police officers in conducting the
roadblock was 'reasonable' under the Fourth Amendment."  State v. Patterson,
582 A.2d 1204, 1205 (Me. 1990) (quoting State v. Cloukey, 486 A.2d 143, 145). 
This "involves a weighing of the gravity of the public concerns served by the
seizure, the degree to which the seizure advances the public interest, and the
severity of the interference with individual liberty."  Id. (quoting Brown v.
Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 50-51 (1979)).
	[¶16]  We have concluded on several occasions that roadblocks whose
purpose is to enforce compliance with motor vehicle or driver safety
requirements, that are minimally intrusive, are constitutional.  Patterson, 582
A.2d at 1205 (motor vehicle safety roadblock upheld); State v. Babcock, 559
A.2d 337, 337 (Me. 1989) (OUI roadblock upheld); State v. McMahon, 557 A.2d
1324, 1325 (Me. 1989) (combined OUI and motor vehicle safety roadblock
upheld); State v. Leighton, 551 A.2d 116, 118 (Me. 1988) (OUI roadblock upheld);
Cloukey, 486 A.2d at 147 (Me. 1985) (traffic safety roadblock upheld).
	[We] have consistently emphasized that the State's
vital interest in the health, safety, and welfare of its
citizens justifies roadblocks designed to enforce motor
vehicle safety laws and to prevent traffic accidents. 
The public is best served by a regime that deters drivers
from traveling in unsafe vehicles and identifies safety
defects before vehicles are involved in accidents.
Patterson, 582 A.2d at 1205 (citations omitted).
	[¶17]  In applying the balancing test, we have considered the
reasonableness of the officers' actions at the roadblock in light of the following
(1) The degree of discretion, if any, left to the officer in the field; 
(2) the location designated for the roadblock;  (3) the time and
duration of the roadblock;  (4) standards set by superior officers; 
(5) advance notice to the public at large;  (6) advance warning to
the individual approaching motorist; (7) maintenance of safety
conditions;  (8) degree of fear or anxiety generated by the mode of
operation;  (9) average length of time each motorist is detained; 
(10) physical factors surrounding the location, type and method of
operation;  (11) the availability of less intrusive methods for
combating the problem;  (12) the degree of effectiveness of the
procedure; and (13) any other relevant circumstances which might
bear upon the test.
Leighton, 551 A.2d at 118 (quoting Cloukey, 486 A.2d at 146 (quoting State v.
Deskins, 673 P.2d 1174, 1185 (Kan. 1983))).
	[¶18]  The purpose of the roadblock was to check for equipment defects
and other motor vehicle law violations.  The officers conducted the roadblock
according to the training standards previously established by the Scarborough
Police Department.  They had no discretion regarding which vehicles to stop. 
The roadblock was limited in duration.  The length of detention of each
motorist for the actual safety check was only a couple of minutes.  The stop
was conducted in a non-intrusive manner.{3}  Furthermore, the roadblock was
reasonably effective in detecting safety violations, as the number of arrests
made and warnings and summonses issued proves.  
	[¶19]  Because the roadblock was reasonably effective in promoting the
State's strong interest in preventing traffic accidents and promoting the health
and welfare of its citizens, and the stops were minimally intrusive, the
roadblock was  constitutional.
	The entry is:
		Judgment affirmed.

Attorneys for State: Stephanie Anderson, District Attorney Julia Sheridan, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally) 142 Federal Street Portland, ME 04101 Attorney for defendant: Matthew B. Nichols, Esq. (orally) Nichols & Webb, P.A. 110 Main Street, suite 1520 Saco, ME 04072
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} . Section 2411(1) states, in pertinent part, the following: A person commits OUI, which is a Class D crime unless otherwise provided, if that person operates a motor vehicle: A. While under the influence of intoxicants; or B. While having a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or more. 29-A M.R.S.A. § 2411 (1996). {2} . No evidence of what occurred after Bradbury was detained was admitted at the suppression hearing because she only argued that the initial stop was unconstitutional. {3} . Although in this case there was no advance notice to the public at large, that factor is less important when the purpose of the roadblock is to check for safety violations.