STATE v. AUSTIN
381 A.2d 652 (1978)
STATE of Maine v. Preston P. AUSTIN.
Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.
January 12, 1978.
Thomas E. Delahanty, II, Dist. Atty., Herbert Bunker, Jr. (orally), Deputy Dist. Atty., South Paris, for plaintiff.
Skelton, Taintor & Abbott, P. A. by John B. Cole, Lewiston (orally), for defendant.
Before McKUSICK, C. J., and POMEROY, ARCHIBALD, GODFREY and NICHOLS, JJ.
McKUSICK, Chief Justice.
The defendant, Preston P. Austin, was tried by complaint on two counts of assault and one count of disorderly conduct. 17-A M.R.S.A. §§ 207, 501(2). An Oxford County jury found him guilty on both assault charges and not guilty of disorderly conduct. The defendant appeals from the two judgments of guilty for assault.
From the evidence produced at trial, the jury could have found the following facts.
At approximately 1 a. m. on July 11, 1976, Officer John Bernard, Jr., police chief of the Town of Mexico, and Officer Gregory Gallant of the Mexico Police Department, stationed themselves in a marked police cruiser opposite the MGM lounge on Main Street in Mexico, for the purpose of investigating repeated citizen complaints of loud noises from persons leaving the MGM around closing time. The officers observed several patrons come out of the MGM, some congregating in small groups on the sidewalk. Although some persons in the crowd were using loud language, the officers took no action until Chief Bernard heard someone shout an obscene name. As the same person repeated the phrase twice more, Chief Bernard singled out the defendant as the speaker and observed that he appeared to be directing his speech to a group of some five persons who were standing in an area between the MGM and an adjacent restaurant. As Chief Bernard watched, Austin crossed the street and started a conversation with one John Porello, who was seated in his parked car about 50 feet from the passenger side of the police cruiser. Chief Bernard, who was sitting in that seat with the window down, then heard Austin repeat the obscenity. Austin then put his arm up over the top of Porello's vehicle and, pointing his hand directly at the cruiser, called out another obscene name. Chief Bernard immediately got out of the cruiser and went over to Austin. When asked whether "he would clean up his mouth" and told by Chief Bernard that he did not appreciate Austin's name-calling, Austin replied that he had not called the Chief the obscene name. Chief Bernard, at that moment, advised Austin that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct.
Officer Gallant, who by that time had joined the others at the Porello car, assisted Chief Bernard, who was unsuccessfully attempting to put Austin in handcuffs, by picking Austin up around his waist from the rear and physically carrying him to the cruiser. There, the officers succeeded in handcuffing him, but in the process of placing him in the back seat of the cruiser, Austin kicked out at Officer Gallant, striking him in the thigh. On the ride to the police station, Austin continued to be unruly, positioning himself over the back of the front seat "screaming obscenities and threats." At one point, when Chief Bernard attempted to push him back down into the rear seat, Austin fell back and with his foot struck Chief Bernard in the area of his left ear, neck, and jaw. At the station, Austin was charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of assault.
The thrust of the defendant's arguments on appeal concerns his asserted right to resist an illegal arrest with force.
Reading the provisions of the Criminal Code as a whole shows, however, that Robinson no longer states the law of Maine.
Section 107(1)(A) states that a law enforcement officer is justified in using a reasonable degree of nondeadly force upon another person
Section 108, which governs the use of physical force in defense of a person, provides that
A third relevant provision is section 752, which makes a person guilty of assaulting an officer if he "knowingly assaults a law enforcement officer while the officer is engaged in the performance of his official duties." The official comment to section 752 states:
From examination of section 108, together with sections 107 and 752, it becomes clear that the legislature did not intend section 108 to give a person the right to resist a law enforcement officer's use of reasonable, nondeadly force to effect an arrest, whether legal or illegal. Section 107 clearly declares that a law enforcement officer is justified in using a reasonable degree of nondeadly force to effect an arrest when he reasonably believes it necessary to do so. The only exception to that justification exists when he knows that the arrest or detention is illegal. Thus, section 107 contemplates by its terms that the officer's justification defense will extend even to situations when, for any number of reasons, the arrest ultimately turns out to have been illegal. It must be emphasized that section 107 provides the officer with justification for the use of only a reasonable degree of nondeadly force; anything beyond that would be unlawful.
The policy of section 752 complements the legislature's grant to the officer of a limited, clearly defined justification for his use of force, regardless of a subsequent determination that the arrest was illegal; even as the officer is expressly given the right to use some force, the person being arrested is expressly prohibited from knowingly "causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact" to the officer. 17-A M.R.S.A. §§ 752(2), 207. As the comment to section 752 makes clear, it is precisely in the circumstance when a person believes that he is being illegally arrested that section 752 is intended to function as a deterrent to violence.
Under section 108, a private person is justified in using reasonable, nondeadly force "upon another person," in terms including a police officer, to defend
We thus read these sections of the Criminal Code as an integrated whole declaring the entire law relating to criminal responsibility for violence during an attempted arrest. In general, under the code a person being arrested must not respond violently. On the other hand, a police officer is given by the code substantial leeway in using nondeadly force in making an arrest—namely, that amount he reasonably believes necessary to make the arrest—provided he does not know the arrest is illegal. Section 108 gives the arrested person a right of self-defense against unlawful or excessive force used by the police officer; but if he reacts violently to nondeadly force applied by the police, he takes his chances on being able later to show the officer was not justified under section 107.
The legislature has thus cast the advantage on the side of law enforcement officers,
The defendant has assigned as error the presiding justice's refusal to grant the following jury instruction:
The requested instruction was obviously derived from the rule of State v. Robinson, supra, which no longer is the law. The requested instruction was properly denied. The presiding justice's charge correctly stated the principles of law relevant to the defendant's defense of justification.
We have examined the defendant's remaining claims of error, and finding none with merit, the entry must be:
WERNICK and DELAHANTY, JJ., did not sit.
POMEROY, ARCHIBALD, GODFREY and NICHOLS, JJ., concur.
- No Cases Found