Defendant Could Not “Claim Surprise” By Kidnapping Arrest and Conviction; Statute Not Unconstitutionally Vague

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

A previous article on this website described how the defendant failed to convince the Appellate Court that the State did not prove he intentionally prevented a kidnapping victim’s liberation. Another aspect of his appeal concerned whether or not the kidnapping statute, as applied to the facts of his case, met the standards for unconstitutional vagueness.

What is a “Void for Vagueness” Challenge?

The essence of a “void for vagueness” challenge is that a person must have fair warning regarding what conduct constitutes a violation of a statute and the guarantee that the statute will not be applied arbitrarily by law enforcement officials. Thus, for a defendant to prevail on this claim, he must show beyond a reasonable doubt either that he had inadequate notice of what conduct was prohibited or was subject to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

The Supreme Court of Connecticut has previously conceded that there are rare cases where a conviction for kidnapping “would constitute an absurd and unconscionable result because of the limited duration of the confinement or the slight degree of restriction in movement.” At the same time, however, there is no bright-line rule outlining the minimum time or distance requirements constituting a restraint. This concept, in conjunction with the statutory prohibition on restraint as outlined in § 53a-94a, ultimately defeated the defendant’s claim.

The Court’s Ruling

The Appellate Court acknowledged that the restraint in this case was brief, but due to the defendant’s evidenced intent to prevent the victim from leaving, he could not claim that he did not know that his actions were criminal. As the Court emphasized, he “cannot claim surprise that he would be arrested, prosecuted and convicted of the crime of kidnapping.”

Furthermore, the defendant presented no evidence that at the time of the incident he was acting on a good faith reliance that his conduct was lawful, or “that a person of ordinary intelligence would have no reason to know that he was engaging in prohibited conduct.” Therefore, the Court rejected the defendant’s claim that § 53a-94a was unconstitutionally vague as it applied to these facts.

When faced with a charge of kidnapping or unlawful restraint, 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 JMaya@Mayalaw.com.