In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut considered a defendant’s motions to suppress a confession and evidence arguing insufficiency of the evidence to establish that he was the driver a DUI-related incident.
This case arose from an incident that occurred after midnight on January 16, 2009. While responding to a two-car accident in front of Foxwoods Casino, a state trooper came across a one-car accident along the away. The defendant was walking around the car and appeared confused and dazed. No one else was in the vicinity besides other vehicles passing by. The trooper noticed that the defendant smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot glassy eyes, and was unsteady on his feet. The defendant stated he was the driver of the vehicle, and explained that while driving, an oncoming car crossed into his lane. To avoid a head-on collision, the defendant swerved off the road and hit a rock. He admitted to consuming seven glasses of wine while at Foxwoods.
The trooper observed that the defendant’s car was steaming and hissing, indicating the accident had recently occurred. There was heavy front-end damage, as well as debris next to a large rock along the side of the road, consistent with the damage to the car. The trooper conducted field sobriety tests, all of which the defendant failed. The defendant was placed under arrest and brought to the state trooper barracks, where he underwent blood alcohol tests at 12:58am and 1:50am. The defendant registered a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .135 and .121, respectively, both above the legal limit of 0.08.
The defendant was charged with operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) in violation of § 14-227a. He filed a motion to suppress his confession that he was the driver, as well as a motion to suppress the results of the field sobriety and blood alcohol tests administered to him after the accident. The defendant argued that there was insufficient corroborative evidence to establish that he operated the car, meaning his confession was inadmissible. In addition, he argued that the State did not present evidence to establish the blood alcohol tests were administered within the two-hour statutory window after operation.
When a defendant makes a “naked extrajudicial confession of guilt,” this on its own is not sufficient to sustain a criminal conviction unless supported by corroborative evidence. Such evidence need not be direct evidence, but may be circumstantial in nature as well. If, however, the crime charged does not involve a specific harm, loss, or injury, such as OMVUI, it “is [only] necessary … to require the Government to introduce substantial independent evidence which would tend to establish the trustworthiness of the [defendant’s] statement.” Finally, chemical tests measuring BAC must be taken within two hours after operation of the motor vehicle occurs.
In this case, the Superior Court found sufficient independent proof, in the form of the trooper’s observations, to corroborate the truthfulness of the defendant’s assertion that he was the driver of the vehicle. In addition, the evidence supported the conclusion that the accident happened very recently: as the court wrote, “the accident could not have gone undetected for any substantial length of time.” In addition, since the trooper did not start his shift until 12:00am, and the second chemical blood alcohol test was administered at 1:50am, it was proper to conclude that the tests were taken prior to the expiration of the two-hour statutory window.
When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence), 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.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.