Criminal Defense

Drunk Golfer Must Pay $1.5M for Killing Couple

A drunk driver who slammed his pick up truck into a couple’s motorcycle in Easton, Penn., must pay the families of the victims $1.5 million.

The Incident

Patrick Petti and Barbara A. Warren were engaged when they were struck and killed by James M. Black. Before the crash, Black had been drinking at the Riverview Country Club in Forks Township, Penn., and tested with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit after the 2008 accident.

The families of the couple sued both Black and the country club.

Their attorney, Kevin Marciano, said that Black drank alcohol before, during and after playing golf and the country club continued to serve him even after he was drunk.

The Jury’s Decision

But the jury found only Black responsible for the accident.

The jury believed the country club’s argument that they did not over-serve Black because it did not sell alcohol directly to Black. The club’s lawyers argued that Black poured his own drinks from pitchers of beer that others purchased at the bar and brought back to their table.

It is unclear if the $1.5 million is collectible against Black, 40, who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and is serving a five to 10-year prison sentence. He will be eligible for parole in February 2015 but could be in prison until 2020.

By: Sylvia Hsieh

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to an automobile accident claim, DUI, or personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at

Plaintiff’s Lawsuit Against Commissioner of Department of Motor Vehicles Barred by State’s Sovereign Immunity; Plaintiff Failed to Prove Any Exceptions Applied

In a criminal law matter, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport dismissed a plaintiff’s action against the defendant Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), because she was barred under sovereign immunity doctrine from bringing suit.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on or about July 11, 2006. The plaintiff was arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol in violation of General Statutes § 14-227a, and she refused to submit to an alcohol chemical test. She pled guilty to this charge, and in light of two previous OMVUI convictions, her license was suspended for a year and she would be required to install an interlocking ignition device (IID) in her vehicle.

The plaintiff received a revised suspension notice from the DMV stating her license would instead be suspended for three years because of her refusal to submit to the chemical test. In addition, the plaintiff would not be able to make use of the IID. See General Statutes § 14-227b(i)(3)(C).

The plaintiff filed motions with the court, asking it to enjoin the defendant from suspending her license beyond the initial one-year period. The plaintiff argued that the defendant exceeded his statutory authority and, as such, violated her constitutional rights. In its motion to dismiss, the defendant countered that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction because of the state’s sovereign immunity. He pointed out that the plaintiff did not seek declaratory or injunctive relief “based on a substantial claim that the state or its officials have violated [her] constitutional rights or that the state or its officials have acted in excess of their statutory authority.”

Sovereign Immunity Doctrine 

Sovereign immunity doctrine holds that a State cannot be sued unless it authorizes or consents to suit. There are only three statutory exceptions to this rule: waiver, violation of a plaintiff’s constitutional right by a state official, and action in excess of a state official’s statutory authority which violates a plaintiff’s right. If the second exception is asserted, State action will survive strict scrutiny analysis only if it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.

In this case, the Superior Court found “little dispute” that highway safety is a compelling state interest and that the increased suspension and IID refusal was “both reasonable and necessary to achieve the goal of protecting the public safety.” Therefore, the Court found that the plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated.

Regarding the third exception, the DMV Commissioner has very broad discretion “to oversee and control the operation of motor vehicles generally.” Public policy concerns underpinning our motor vehicle laws center on the protection of the lives and property of Connecticut’s citizens. The legislature has also recognized the heavy burden placed on those convicted of OMVUI “in a society dependent on automotive transportation.” The use of IIDs helps alleviate these burdens, but it is a privilege of limited application, which does not encompass suspensions based on refusing to submit to an alcohol chemical test.

In this case, the Superior Court found that the defendant “clearly” had statutory authority to impose the three-year suspension and refused the plaintiff’s request to use an IID. Therefore, because the plaintiff failed to establish the applicability of either exception, the Superior Court held her action was barred by the State’s sovereign immunity.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at

Milford Teacher and Coach Accused of Assaulting Student


A Milford teacher is under arrest after being accused of placing a student in a headlock. Mark Ruzbarsky, a math teacher at Jonathan Law High School, was taken into custody on an arrest warrant. Police said Ruzbarsky, who is in his fourth year as a math teacher at Jonathan Law High School, was accused of restraining the unidentified student by the neck during a class at the school.

The Incident

The incident reportedly happened during an algebra class, and Ruzbarsky was charged. He said he didn’t mean to hurt the student and that it was all meant in fun. “I think that’s absolutely awful,” said Courtney Luciana of Milford. Milford police said Ruzbarsky was teaching the algebra class when he noticed a 15-year-old student wasn’t completing his classwork. That’s when investigators said he grabbed the student’s arm, and according to an arrest “Ruzbarsky then squeezed his neck and pushed his head down,” and the victim told police the headlock lasted about one second and that he could not breathe.

“It’s OK for teachers to play around with their students here and there but I don’t believe in putting their hands on a child whatsoever is OK,” said Luciana. Seconds after the alleged headlock, the victim told police that Ruzbarsky did it again and this time “he couldn’t breathe for approximately five seconds.” Ruzbarsky told police that it was all in good fun since “the victim raised his head and smiled at him.” Later that day, the student told a guidance counselor “his neck hurt when he touched it and he did have minor scrapes on his neck,” the warrant said.

The Defense’s Statement

William B. Westcott of Maya Murphy in Westport, Ruzbarsky’s lawyer, said his client had nothing to hide and released this statement:

“He placed his hands on a student’s shoulders during math class in an effort to do nothing more than engage the student’s attention. Mr. Ruzbarsky was attempting to be boisterous and brotherly in his approach. He was not angry with the student for any reason, nor was he meaning to discipline the student in any way. Mr. Ruzbarsky was both shocked and distraught when he learned only later in the day that he had made the student feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. It is important to note that Mr. Ruzbarsky was quickly returned to work after the school conducted its own investigation, even though the school was aware that this arrest would be forthcoming. It is apparent that the colleagues and administrators who personally know Mark Ruzbarsky are confident he poses no threat whatsoever to the students he supervises and educates.”

Ruzbarsky, who is also the assistant wrestling coach at Jonathan Law High School, was charged with third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace. The Milford school system would not comment on the case, but it did say that Ruzbarsky remained an employee.

Joseph Maya selected to 2022 Edition of Best Lawyers in America


Westport, CT – Maya Murphy, P.C. is pleased to announce that Joseph Maya has been included in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence.

Joseph Maya, a Connecticut and New York-based litigation attorney, was recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© 2022 edition. He has been rated Best Lawyers in America and ranks among the top private practice attorneys nationwide. Attorneys listed in this edition of The Best Lawyers in America were selected after an exhaustive peer-review survey that confidentially investigates the professional abilities and experience of each lawyer. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Mr. Maya has been practicing law in Connecticut for more than 25 years. He has been a licensed attorney in New York for more than 30 years.

“Best Lawyers was founded in 1981 with the purpose of highlighting the extraordinary accomplishments of those in the legal profession,” said Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer. “We are proud to continue to serve as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals worldwide.”

Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers based on professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

Maya Murphy, P.C. has offices in Westport, CT and New York City. For additional information on Joseph Maya or Maya Murphy, P.C., please visit its website at, or call 203-221-3100.

State Employee Retirement Benefits Payments are Not Exempt from Garnishment by Victims of Violent Crime

Klingman v. Winters, KNLCV020560881, 2010 WL 5493498 (Conn. Super. Ct. Dec. 8, 2010)
Wage Execution

In a case before the Superior Court of Connecticut, a victim of a violent crime sought to have a wage execution enforced against the retirement payments of her convicted assailant in order to collect the awarded judgment. The court found that the claim for a wage execution was valid and enforceable.

The plaintiff was awarded a $240,000 judgment for injuries she sustained from a physical attack by the defendant.  The judgment was entered on a four-count complaint claiming negligence, reckless and wanton assault, intentional assault and violation of the Violence Against Women Act of 1995, 42 U.S.C. § 13981, based upon the applicable Connecticut General Statutes.

The defendant declared bankruptcy; however, the bankruptcy court found that the plaintiff’s judgment was not subject to bankruptcy exemptions.  In its memorandum of decision, the bankruptcy court characterized the attack as “vicious and brutal” and the injuries inflicted as “willful and malicious.”

A wage execution was entered against the defendant and the defendant’s employer, the State of Connecticut, and was paid to the plaintiff until the defendant retired.  The plaintiff applied for a new wage execution, which was served on the State and returned by reason of the defendant’s retirement.

The State contended that it discontinued payments on the wage execution because the defendant was placed on hazardous duty disability retirement and  the execution was impermissible according to Connecticut law prohibiting assignments of state employees’ retirement benefits, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 5-171.

Retirement Benefits Payments 

Under Connecticut law, retirement benefits of state employees are intended to support the member or beneficiary who is entitled to those payments; therefore, any assignment of such benefits is “null and void.”  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 5-171.  These benefits are “exempt from the claims of creditors.” However, if these general provisions are contrary to the law governing a particular circumstance, the law dictates “any payment shall be exempt to the maximum extent permitted by law.” Id. 

Connecticut law governing the general availability of retirement income to creditors, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-321a, exempts “any pension plan, annuity or insurance contract or similar arrangement … established by federal or state statute for federal, state or municipal employees for the primary purpose of providing benefits upon retirement by reason of age, health or length of service” from the claims of all creditors of the plan beneficiary. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-321a(a)(5).

However, this law also provides a specific exception for victims of violent crime: “Nothing in this section … shall impair the rights of a victim of crime … to recover damages awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction from any federal, state or municipal pension, annuity or insurance contract or similar arrangement … when such damages are the result of a crime committed by [the] participant or beneficiary.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-321a(b).

The plaintiff argued that the defendant’s retirement payments should be garnished pursuant to the Connecticut law governing the availability of retirement income to creditors, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-321a.  She asserted that this law governed her particular circumstance as a victim of violent crime, and established an exception to the exemption of state employee retirement benefits stated in Section 5-171.

The Court’s Decision

The plaintiff’s argument raises an issue of first impression in Connecticut.  Connecticut appellate courts have not addressed the specific issue of a victim’s right to enforce a withholding order pursuant to law governing the availability of retirement income to creditors, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-321a.  Discussion of the general applicability of this law has been limited to trial court decisions regarding alimony and child support obligations.

These cases have consistently found that pension benefits covered by Section 52-321a are not exempt from income withholding orders. See, e.g., Sinicropi v. Sinicropi, 23 Conn. L. Rptr. 49 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1998);  Foley v. Foley, 20 Conn. L. Rptr. 644 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1997).

The court found that the plaintiff was a victim of a crime; therefore, her claim for a wage execution upon the retirement benefits of the defendant fell within the statutory exception of Section 52-321a(b) and constituted a particular circumstance that fell within the statutory exception of Section 5-171.   The court ordered that a wage execution may be issued against the retirement benefits payments to the defendant by the State of Connecticut.

The “Manifest Disregard of the Law” Standard for Judicial Review of a FINRA Arbitration Award Excludes Questions of Fact

Patrick R. Murray v. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., 2011 WL 5523680 (N.D. Ohio Nov. 14, 2011)
Case Background

In a case before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Patrick R. Murray (“Murray”) filed motions to vacate, modify, or correct portions of a Financial Industry Regulatory (“FINRA”) arbitration award.  Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., (“CGMI”) filed a cross-motion to confirm the arbitration award and to award costs and fees incurred while seeking confirmation.   The court denied Murray’s motions to vacate, modify or correct the arbitration award and granted CGMI’s motion to confirm the arbitration award.  CGMI’s request for costs and fees was denied.

In July 2000, Murray was hired as a financial advisor in a local Smith Barney office, which was later acquired by CGMI.  As required by FINRA rules, Murray executed a Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration or Transfer (“Form U–4”).  He also executed a promissory note for a $1,508,401 forgivable loan, and an addendum to the promissory note that extended the length of the repayment period from seven years to nine years.

The instruments provided that the loan was to be repaid in nine equal annual installments commencing on the first anniversary date of its execution and that, if Murray terminated his employment prior to full repayment, the outstanding balance would be immediately payable with interest accruing from the date of termination.  In April 2009, Murray resigned after having made eight annual payments on the loan.

The Arbitration

In May 2009, Murray sued CGMI in state court alleging that CGMI fraudulently induced him to sign the addendum to the promissory note and illegally confiscated his assets related to a capital accumulation plan account.  CGMI removed the case to federal court, where it filed a motion to compel arbitration. The court found that the arbitration clauses in the Form U-4, the promissory note, the addendum to the promissory note and a separate signed acknowledgment of the CGMI employee handbook were valid and enforceable; therefore, it granted CGMI’s motion to compel arbitration.

FINRA appointed a panel of three neutral arbitrators to hear the matter.  In April 2011, the FINRA panel awarded CGMI compensatory damages of $40,153.00 representing the unpaid balance on the promissory note and awarded Murray compensatory damages of $25,705.95.

Murray filed the instant motion to vacate, modify or correct portions of the arbitration award in federal court and CGMI filed its response and cross-motion to confirm the arbitration award.  Murray challenged the arbitration award on the following grounds: (1) the award was irrational; (2) the award did not draw its essence from the contract between the parties; (3) the award violated public policy; and (4) the award manifestly disregarded the law.

Vacating an Arbitration Award

The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16, defines four limited statutory grounds on which a court may vacate an arbitration award, including instances of fraud or corruption, evident partiality, misbehavior or misconduct and acts exceeding the arbitration panel’s authority.  9 U.S.C. § 10(a).  The court found that none of Murray’s first three grounds for vacatur satisfied these statutory requirements.

Several federal circuits, including the Sixth Circuit, have held that an arbitration award can be vacated “if it displays ‘manifest disregard of the law.’ ” Jacada, Ltd. v. Int’l Mktg. Strategies, Inc., 401 F.3d 701, 712 (6th Cir. 2005), overruled on other grounds, (citing Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. Jaros, 70 F.3d 718, 421 (6th Cir. 1995)).

The Court’s Decision

However, the court found that Murray’s assertions of manifest disregard of the law were based on questions of fact rather than questions of law.  A federal court does not have the authority to re-litigate facts when reviewing an arbitration award to determine whether the arbitrators manifestly disregarded the law.   See Bd. Of County Commis of Lawrence County, Ohio v. L. Robert Kimball & Assocs., 860 F.2d 683, 688 (6th Cir.1988).  Therefore, the court denied Murray’s motion to vacate the arbitration award.

The court additionally determined that, although Murray was incorrect on the merits of his case, he did not engage in the degree of bad faith or vexatious behavior that would compel the court to award CGMI fees and costs for the instant litigation.  Therefore, the court confirmed the arbitration award in its entirety without awarding CGMI additional fees and costs.

Should you have any questions relating to FINRA, arbitration or employment issues, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County, Connecticut at 203-221-3100 or at

GPS Evidence Stricken: A Victory for the Fourth Amendment

GPS Evidence Stricken: A Victory for the Fourth Amendment

GPS units are not only handy devices that are, for many, becoming indispensable on the roads, but the technology is increasingly being utilized by law enforcement officials to track suspects, gather evidence, and ultimately build cases against criminal defendants.

Advocates of individual civil liberties and opponents of excessive governmental intrusion argue that the surreptitious placement of a GPS device by the police under a private citizen’s automobile runs afoul of the Constitutional protections against unlawful searches and seizures.  Prosecutors, on the other hand, contend that police have the right and option to view individuals operating their vehicles on private roads without a warrant, and the GPS device is merely an extension of such ability.

A defendant’s constitutional challenge to the practice was upheld in the Court of Appeals in New York (resulting in a reversal of a conviction, and ultimately a dismissal of criminal charges).  The issue is ripe to be challenged in Connecticut and other jurisdictions across the nation.

Our firm in Westport serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation. Divorce is difficult, education is power. Call today.

U.S. Supreme Court to Tackle Nonconsensual, Warrantless Blood Draws

Missouri v. McNeely (11-1425) and its ruling on warrantless blood draws has impacted the criminal justice community and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.

Katz v. United States

In the pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case Katz v. United States, the justices stated, “Searches conducted without warrants have been held unlawful notwithstanding facts unquestionably showing probable cause.”[1] The compulsory administration of a blood test “plainly involves the broadly conceived reach of a search and seizure.”[2] Warrantless searches are “per se unreasonable… subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.”[3]

One such recognized exception is exigent circumstances, which “refers to those situations in which law enforcement agents will be unable or unlikely to effectuate and arrest, search or seizure, for which probable cause exists, unless they act swiftly and, without seeking prior judicial authorization.”[4]

Case Background

McNeely involved a traffic stop turned DUI investigation, followed by the compulsory administration of a blood test against the defendant’s wishes. This scenario was previously expounded upon by the Supreme Court in Schmerber v. California, which permitted the warrantless taking of blood samples in light of “‘special facts’ that might have caused the officer to reasonably believe he was faced with an emergency situation in which the delay in obtaining a warrant would threaten the destruction of evidence.”[5] Concerning special facts in that case:

The threat of evidence destruction was caused by the fact that the percentage of alcohol in a person’s blood begins to diminish shortly after drinking stops and because there was an accident requiring time to be taken to both transport the defendant to the hospital and to investigate the scene of the accident.[6]

Court Ruling

However, the Court in McNeely characterized the facts as “a routine DWI case” where there were “no other ‘special facts’ of exigency.”[7] As such, “[i]n routine DWI cases, in which no ‘special facts’ exist other than the natural dissipation alcohol in the blood, a warrant must be obtained before [a nonconsensual blood draw occurs].”[8] Thus, on Supreme Court review, McNeely presents the following constitutional inquiry: “police authority to take a blood sample from a driver who allegedly was drunk, when the officer has no warrant but wants to act quickly because of the chemical fact that alcohol in the blood dissipates over time.”

Indeed, only two months ago, I discussed a Superior Court of Connecticut case addressing this very scenario following a deadly automobile accident. During a motion to suppress a blood toxicology report, the State made the same argument set forth by Missouri – “evidence of the defendant’s blood alcohol level would have been lost if not obtained within a reasonable time”[9] – and equally failed because “the record [did] not contain any information that supports the finding that an exigency actually existed.”[10] How the Supreme Court decides on this question will undoubtedly have a widespread impact on police investigations involving intoxicated drivers.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Contact Us

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at

[1] United States v. Katz, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967).

[2] Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 767 (1966).

[3] State v. Aviles, 277 Conn. 281, 293 (2006).

[4] Id.

[5] Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 770-71 (1966).

[6] Id.

[7] State  v. McNeely, 358 S.W.3d 65, 74 (Mo. 2012).

[8] Id.

[9] State v. D’Andrea, 2006 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3381  (2006).

[10] Id.

Defendant’s Actions Evidenced Bigotry and Bias Toward Homosexuals; Intimidation Conviction Upheld

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conviction for intimidation based on bigotry or bias, because the evidence established that he possessed the specific intent to intimidate or harass the victim based on actual or perceived homosexuality.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on September 12, 2005. The victim and defendant were homeless and lived in tents at a wooded campsite. That afternoon, they drank alcohol at a park with an unidentified man (man), who implied that he was homosexual. When the victim and defendant returned to the campsite, the defendant stated he did not want “fags” in their area, particularly the man. The two spent the evening drinking and got into an argument when the victim began undressing. The defendant claimed the victim must be a “fag” because “[o]nly a fag would take his clothes off in front of another man” and because he was spending time with the man.

A fight ensued, lasting at least ten minutes, when the defendant poured a bottle of vodka on the victim and tried to light him on fire. Unsuccessful in this attempt, the defendant then threatened to burn the victim with gasoline before leaving the campsite. The victim went to a local soup kitchen for help, and gave police a sworn statement about what occurred. The defendant was subsequently arrested and signed a waiver of rights before making both oral and written statements, in which he repeatedly used the word “fag.”

The Trial

A jury found the defendant guilty of attempt to commit assault in the second degree, threatening in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, intimidation based on bigotry or bias in the second degree, and disorderly conduct. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that there was insufficient evidence that he committed intimidation. He claimed that the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had “the requisite specific intent to intimidate or harass [the victim] because of [the victim’s] actual or perceived sexual orientation.”

Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-181k(a) prohibits acts in which a person specifically intends to intimidate or harass another person on the basis of actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. “Specific intent involves a ‘conscious objective to cause [a] result,’” and is often inferred from circumstantial evidence, such as a defendant’s verbal or physical conduct.

The Court’s Decision

The Appellate Court found that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably conclude that the defendant possessed the required specific intent to violate § 53a-181k(a). Based on his oral and written statements, the jury could infer a bias toward homosexuals as well as his question as to whether the victim was homosexual as well. He stated he did not want homosexuals at the campsite and then accused the victim of being a “fag” before fighting him.

In addition, the defendant attempted to set the victim on fire, and threatened a second attempt to do so. Therefore, “the jury could have inferred that the defendant acted with intent to harass or to intimidate [the victim] because of his actual or perceived sexual orientation.” Thus, the judgment was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of assault, threatening, or intimidation, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at

Appellate Court Reversed Conviction Due to Invalid Waiver

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut reversed a defendant’s criminal convictions, finding that his purported waiver of his right to a jury trial was not validly made.

Case Background

In this case, the defendant was arrested and charged with sexual assault in the fourth degree, public indecency, and disorderly conduct. He never expressed his wish, either orally or in writing, to waive his right to a jury trial. However, at a status conference, defense counsel stated the defendant would be electing for a bench trial. The case was placed on the trial docket, and at the next court appearance, both the defense counsel and prosecutor assured the judge that the defendant was adequately canvassed with respect to waiver.

Thereafter, the court found the defendant guilty on all charges. He appealed his convictions, claiming that “the purported waiver of his right to a jury trial was invalid because the record does not reflect that he ever personally affirmed, either in writing or orally, his desire to waive this right.”

Waiver of a Constitutional Protection

In order to constitute a valid waiver of a constitutional protection, a defendant must make it knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. The Supreme Court of Connecticut previously ruled that a defendant – and only the defendant – may waive his “fundamental right to a jury trial.” Even as a matter of trial strategy, defense counsel cannot make this decision. More importantly, the defendant must make an “affirmative indication” of his wish: “passive silence… while defense counsel purport[s] to waive the defendant’s right to a jury trial” provides an insufficient showing of a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver.

The Appellate Court in this case determined that the record wholly lacked any indication that the defendant himself waived his right to a jury trial, and defense counsel’s actions simply were not sufficient to meet the strict standard imposed. Because the defendant did not personally waive his right, his convictions were reversed and a new trial was ordered.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of sexual assault or any other criminal offense, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at