PARIS — A judge has ruled that evidence gathered in the case of a fatal hit-and-run accident in Fryeburg is admissible.
Defense attorney Edward Dilworth had argued that there was no probable cause suggesting that 18-year-old Tiffeny Hamlyn of Brownfield committed a crime. He asked that evidence related to Hamlyn's arrest, including a blood-alcohol test, a statement given to police and evidence gathered from searches of her home and vehicle be suppressed.
"At the time of the felony arrest, Officer [Michael] Hall had probable cause to believe Ms. Hamlyn had left the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury," Justice William Brodrick said in a written order denying Dilworth's motion. "He did not have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but he had probable cause."
Hamlyn is charged with manslaughter, aggravated operating under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. She is accused of striking 23-year-old Tiffany Hamilton of Fryeburg with her 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee as Hamilton was walking along Route 113 on the evening of March 26. Hamilton died of her injuries the next day.
According to a statement given to police, Hamlyn said she took her eyes off the road to adjust the radio, heard a noise and thought she had hit a pothole. She said she became scared after hearing about a hit-and-run accident on a scanner at her home and seeing damage to the vehicle, and drank some vodka before going to bed. Hamlyn's blood-alcohol level tested at .17 percent, above the legal limit of .08 percent, when the test was administered four hours after the accident.
Dilworth argued that police did not have a warrant to go onto the property of Hamlyn's home on Shepards River Road and would not have been able to see damage to the Jeep from the road. He also challenged whether police had been given permission to enter the home and Hamlyn's room, whether the Fryeburg Police Department had the authority to make an arrest in Brownfield and whether the grand jury could issue a subpoena for Hamlyn's cell phone records without notifying her.
Brodrick said Hall had previously seen Hamlyn in the Jeep and had pulled her over before as well. He said there was no evidence that anyone else was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, and debris found at the accident site was consistent with damage seen on the Jeep.
At a hearing held last month in Oxford County Superior Court, Hall testified that he went to Hamlyn's home with two Oxford County Sheriff's Office deputies after receiving an anonymous tip that Hamlyn was involved in the accident. Hall said he asked Hamlyn's stepfather if she was home, and he said she was in her room and might be sleeping. Hall arrested Hamlyn after entering her room.
Brodrick said Hamlyn's stepfather never objected to the police entering the home. He said the police could reasonably believe that the stepfather had the authority to let police in and was allowing them to talk to Hamlyn by showing them where her room was.
Brodrick criticized Hall's decision to enter the room, but said that did not affect the case.
"It would have been better, as a matter of discretion, for Officer Hall to wait for the young lady to exit her bedroom before questioning her," he said. "But that is a moral issue, not a suppression issue."
Brodrick dismissed the questions of the scope of the Fryeburg Police Department's coverage area and the cell phone subpoena, saying they "do not have a constitutional dimension and would not authorize suppression."