CLASS B OUI BASED ON PRIOR MANSLAUGHTER, STATE V. HASTEY.
Posted by Edmund R. Folsom, November 6, 2018.
In February of 2016, Troy Hastey was charged with OUI, elevated to a Class B crime based on a 1991 conviction of manslaughter. The statute under which Hastey was charged increases OUI from a Class D crime to Class B if the person has “a prior criminal homicide conviction involving or resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence” or with an excessive alcohol level. In Hastey’s 1991 prosecution, there was no allegation that his manslaughter offense in any way had to do with operating under the influence or operating with an excessive alcohol level. In fact, in that proceeding, Hastey was charged with OUI in count 2 of his indictment, but that charge was dismissed in exchange for Hastey’s plea to the manslaughter count. In Maine, manslaughter is defined as “[r]ecklessly, or with criminal negligence, caus[ing] the death of another human being.” The crime covers a broad range of death-producing behavior. Note that there is nothing in the elements of manslaughter about being under the influence.
Before trial on his Class B OUI charge, Hastey filed a motion in limine, asking the court to rule that, in the pending prosecution, the State had to rely solely on the court records of the criminal homicide that he was actually convicted of back in 1991. The State intended to introduce evidence in addition to the conviction records to show that Hastey in fact drove under the influence or with an excessive alcohol level when the death-producing conduct occurred.
The State argued that the Class B OUI statute at issue requires it to prove two distinct elements regarding the prior conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. The first is that Hastey had a prior criminal homicide conviction, which the State intended to establish by introducing the record of Hastey’s 1991 manslaughter conviction. The second is that the 1991 manslaughter conviction involved or resulted from Hastey operating under the influence or with an excessive alcohol level, which the State proposed to prove by introducing police testimony and records of Hastey’s alcohol test result from that time. In other words, under Hastey’s theory, because the State did not prove as fact in his manslaughter prosecution that the death-producing conduct involved or resulted from his operating under the influence, the conviction was not a “prior criminal homicide conviction involving or resulting from” operating under the influence within the meaning of the OUI statute. The State, on the other hand, argued that the fact Hastey’s criminal homicide conviction involved or resulted from his operating under the influence is a fact that can be proven now, regardless whether it was proven in 1991 when Hastey was convicted of manslaugther. The trial court agreed with Hastey and ruled that the State could not introduce extraneous evidence. The State appealed the ruling and the Law Court reversed, siding with the State.
In State v. Hastey, 2018 ME 147, the Law Court has made clear that a person may be convicted of Class B OUI resting on a manslaughter conviction that did not involve any allegation or finding that the death-producing conduct involved or resulted from the person operating under the influence. To get there, the State must introduce evidence at the Class B OUI trial to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the death-producing conduct underlying the manslaughter conviction in fact involved or resulted from the person operating under the influence. In Mr. Hastey’s case, this will obviously involve bringing to bear some very old evidence, but that is what Mr. Hastey faces as his case heads back to Aroostook County for trial.