Posts tagged with "beyond a reasonable doubt"

Whether Driver Intended to Hit Victim or Not, It Was Still an Accident Under Connecticut’s Evading Responsibility Statute

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed in part and reversed in part a trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal following his conviction on evading responsibility and reckless driving. This story focuses on the first charge.

Case Details

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 23, 2007. The defendant struck the victim while traveling in the wrong direction on the one-way portion of a street, but did not stop to render any assistance. The defendant was located a short distance away and subsequently charged with evading responsibility, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle the wrong direction on a one-way street. At trial, the State argued that the defendant intentionally drove his car into the victim, but the defendant countered that he never intended to strike the victim. Rather, he claimed that he “did so unintentionally after the victim leaped in front of his vehicle while he was attempting to drive past the victim.”

The defendant was convicted on all counts, but filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal, alleging insufficient evidence to prove that he evaded responsibility. He argued that “the term accident, as it is used in § 14-224(b), encompasses only unintentional conduct.” The motion was denied, and the defendant appealed.

To convict an individual of evading responsibility under General Statutes § 14-224(a), the State must prove “(1) the defendant was operating the motor vehicle, (2) the defendant was knowingly involved in an accident… (3) that accident caused the death or serious physical injury of any other person… [and] (4) that the defendant failed to stop at once to render such assistance as may have been needed…” This statute does not provide a definition of “accident.” In a previous case, the Appellate Court of Connecticut was presented with a factually similar scenario, but found “no reason to define the term ‘accident’ in § 14-224, as there [was] sufficient in the record to support the jury’s verdict under any definition of the term.”

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court held the same conclusion and affirmed the defendant’s conviction for evading responsibility. It explained, “There was sufficient evidence in the record for the jury to conclude that the collision was the result of unintentional conduct on part of the defendant, thereby constituting an accident under any definition of the term.” The State satisfied its evidentiary burden beyond a reasonable doubt, and the Court upheld the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion with respect to this charge.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of evading responsibility or reckless driving, 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.

“Intention Was Not to Summon Help, but Rather to Escape Detention”: Appellate Court Upholds Evading Responsibility Conviction

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered a defendant’s sufficiency of the evidence claim following his conviction for evasion of responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle (evading responsibility) in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 14-224(b).

Case Details

This case arose from an incident that occurred shortly before midnight on March 5, 2005 near the Bethel-Danbury town line. The defendant was driving with two passengers when he lost control of his car, struck a telephone pole, and landed sideways on an embankment. All three safely exited the vehicle, and despite the close proximity of houses from which to seek help, the defendant and Passenger One ran into a nearby wooded area, leaving Passenger Two behind. Police responded to the scene, where they observed that the pole was “leaning dangerously low to the ground in such a way that the wires could be brought down by a passing vehicle.”

In addition, they found Passenger Two, who was disoriented, bleeding, and in need of medical attention. Soon thereafter, the defendant and Passenger One were located at the latter’s house, which was located fairly nearby. Along their route were at least ten houses, but neither the defendant nor Passenger One stopped at any of these so they could contact the police or seek help. Neither sought help once they arrived at Passenger One’s residence.

The defendant was charged with two counts of evading responsibility: one for Passenger Two’s injuries, the other for the downed telephone pole. After subsequent conviction, the defendant appealed, arguing that he rendered assistance in compliance with CGS § 14-224(b), because Passenger Two’s injuries were only minor and he left the scene to get help. In addition, he argued that “[t]here was no assistance that [he] could have safely provided” with respect to the downed telephone pole.

Establishing an Evading Responsibility Conviction

To convict a criminal defendant of evading responsibility, the State must first prove: “(1) the defendant was operating a motor vehicle, (2) the defendant was knowingly involved in an accident and (3) the accident caused physical injury to any other person or damage to property.” When these threshold elements are established beyond a reasonable doubt, the State must establish one or more of the following: failure to (4) immediately stop and render necessary assistance; (5) provide identifying information with the person injured or owner of damaged property; or (6) if unable to satisfy (5), call police and leave such identifying information with them.

In this case, the defendant did not contest the threshold inquiries, but argued that the State did not provide sufficient evidence, for both counts, the existence of the fourth element.

The Court’s Decision

The Appellate Court was not persuaded by the defendant’s claims that he offered the requisite assistance prescribed in CGS § 14-224(b)(4). Passenger Two was clearly in need of medical attention, yet the defendant attempted to minimize the injuries. “A defendant cannot avoid his obligations under § 14-224 by engaging in post hoc speculation as to whether his assistance would have been necessary.”

In addition, the Appellate Court found the defendant could have provided assistance regarding the downed telephone pole. At the very least, he could have called police or “alerted other motorists, who might have passed by, of the unsafe roadway condition from a position on the side of the road.” The trial court was free to reject the defendant’s arguments, and could have “reasonably inferred that the defendant’s intention was not to summon help, but rather to escape detection.” Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of evading responsibility, 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.

Court Finds Sufficient Evidence to Convict Where Inebriated Defendant Drove on Public Highways to Get to Private Road

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered whether the State provided insufficient evidence to support the defendant’s conviction for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 14-227a.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on February 1, 2005. The defendant spent the late afternoon and evening with friends at various restaurants in Brookfield and Danbury, where she consumed alcoholic beverages. The manager at the third restaurant asked the defendant to leave because “she was being loud and vulgar and was annoying other patrons.” Around 7:30pm, the defendant drove her car to a nearby dead-end street and parked it in the middle of the road, obstructing traffic in both directions.

A resident called police because the car was still there an hour and fifteen minutes later. When the officer arrived, he saw that the motor was running with the taillights illuminated and radio on. The defendant was sound asleep in the driver’s seat, but with significant effort, the officer was able to wake her up. The defendant had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol, and was quite disoriented. She quickly became uncooperative and would not obey the officer’s orders. The officer was unable to administer the field sobriety tests because of the defendant’s “combative and aggressive behavior.” At the police station, the defendant refused to submit to the breathalyzer test.

The defendant was charged with OMVUI, among other crimes. At trial, defense counsel argued that the defendant was only seen operating her car on the dead-end street, which was not a public highway under § 14-227a. The State countered that she traveled on two public highways to get to the dead-end street, thus satisfying this element. The defendant was convicted on all counts and appealed, arguing, in part, that there was insufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she committed OMVUI.

Determining an OMVUI Conviction

To convict a defendant of OMVUI, the State must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he operated a motor vehicle on a public highway while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When a reviewing court adjudicates a sufficiency of the evidence claim, it construes the evidence so as to favor sustaining the verdict. It then determines whether, based on the facts and attendant inferences, a reasonable jury would have found that “the cumulative effect of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” The jury is the “arbiter of credibility,” and it is not expected to leave common sense and knowledge “at the courtroom door.”

In this case, the Appellate Court found that a jury could reasonably conclude that the defendant was under the influence of the numerous alcoholic drinks she consumed before driving on various public highways to reach the dead-end street. The State met its burden of providing sufficient evidence satisfying the three elements of OMVUI, and after addressing an additional matter on appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

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 JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Appellate Court Finds Sufficient Evidence to Convict, Declines Review of Other Claims Due to Inadequate Briefing

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut was not persuaded by a defendant’s claims of insufficient evidence to establish DUI and would not review his claim of prosecutorial impropriety because his appellate brief was inadequate.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred at 7pm in Wilton on December 19, 2007. A citizen saw the defendant driving very slowly, hitting the right curb repeatedly, and nearly colliding with three cars in the opposite lane. This citizen and others boxed in the defendant after he came to a stop in the wrong lane. Police soon arrived and observed the smell of alcohol, the defendant’s slurred speech, and what appeared to be a red wine stain on his shirt.

They administered the standard field sobriety tests, but the defendant failed one and then refused to perform the other two. He was arrested and brought to police headquarters, where he refused to submit to a breath test. The defendant admitted to consuming multiple drinks in his vehicle starting one hour before he was stopped.

The defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 14-227a(a)(1). During closing arguments, the prosecutor stated, “What bigger piece of circumstantial evidence would there be if the defendant was under the influence other than his refusal to take the test?” The defendant was subsequently convicted, though he appealed on multiple grounds. He argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove OMVUI. He further claimed that prosecutorial impropriety deprived him of a fair trial, because the prosecutor’s statement constituted compulsory self-incrimination.

Establishing an OMVUI Conviction

To convict a defendant of OMVUI, the State must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he operated a motor vehicle on a public highway while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When a reviewing court adjudicates a sufficiency of the evidence claim, it construes the evidence so as to favor sustaining the verdict. It then determines whether, based on the facts and attendant inferences, a reasonable jury would have found that “the cumulative effect of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A jury may consider, pursuant to CGS § 14-227a(e), any inference regarding a defendant’s refusal to submit to a chemical alcohol test. In this case, the Appellate Court found ample evidence that the defendant committed OMVUI, based on his appearance and behavior, the field sobriety tests, and his refusal to submit to a breath test. Therefore, the Court rejected this claim.

The Court’s Decision

Courts are under no duty to review claims that are inadequately briefed. As the Appellate Court discussed in a previous case, “Where a claim is asserted in the statement of issues but thereafter receives only cursory attention in the brief without substantive discussion or citation of authorities, it is deemed to be abandoned.”

In this case, the Appellate Court declined to review the defendant’s claim of prosecutorial impropriety because his brief was not adequate. He did not provide “any analysis, or cite any legal authority, to explain how his fifth amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination is implicated by the prosecutor’s statement in the present case.” After reviewing one additional claim on review, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

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 JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

The Prosecutor’s Job in a DUI Case: Demonstrate the Defendant was Intoxicated, Not Educate the Jury About Field Sobriety Tests

Last March, the Appellate Court of Connecticut reviewed a defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim as it related to his recent conviction of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol.

Case Details

This case arose from an incident that occurred at approximately 9pm on August 20, 2006. Police officers saw the defendant driving his moped on Route 12, a public roadway, in an erratic manner. After officers initiated a traffic stop, they made the following observations of the defendant: bloodshot glassy eyes, the smell of liquor, and disheveled clothing. When asked for his driver’s license, the defendant stated, “[y]ou don’t need a license to operate a moped… give me a break, I just got out on a DWI offense,” and indicated he should not have been driving.

The defendant became uncooperative with the officers, was unable to complete one field sobriety test, and refused to undergo other field tests and a breathalyzer test. The defendant was charged and convicted of OMVUI and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license in violation of General Statutes §§ 14-227a and 14-215(c), respectively. On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence presented by the State was insufficient to sustain his conviction for OMVUI.

To be found guilty of OMVUI, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant “operated a motor vehicle, on a public highway and while the defendant was under the influence of an intoxicating liquor.” To establish the third element, there must be sufficient evidence demonstrating that the defendant “had become so affected in his mental, physical or nervous processes that he lacked to an appreciable degree the ability to function properly in relation to the operation of his vehicle.”

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the defendant contested that the State failed its burden in proving the third element. However, the Appellate Court was persuaded that the State satisfied this element through officer testimony regarding the defendant’s appearance and behavior. The defendant argued that the State failed to establish what a person must do to pass field sobriety tests and how the tests measure a driver’s ability to operate their car. However, the Appellate Court wrote, “The state… did not bear the burden of educating the jury with regard to field sobriety tests, but of demonstrating that the defendant was intoxicated.” After addressing additional grounds for appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed judgment.

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.

Since Defendant Filed Appeal After Statutory Deadline, Trial Court Lacked Jurisdiction to Adjudicate

Last April, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a trial court’s determination that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear plaintiff’s appeal because the statutory filing period had already expired.

Case Background

In this case, the plaintiff was arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol. At the police station, the plaintiff was informed that, under General Statutes § 14-227b(b), if he refused to submit to either a breathalyzer test or other sobriety tests, his license would be suspended for six months.

The plaintiff refused to take the tests, and the defendant Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) began the process of suspending the plaintiff’s license. The plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on August 28, 2009. The hearing officer found that police had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff and that the plaintiff refused to take sobriety tests and operated a motor vehicle at the time he was arrested.

On September 16, 2009, the plaintiff moved for reconsideration, and this motion was denied on September 29. The plaintiff filed a recognizance bond with the clerk’s office on November 12, and then submitted his appeal on November 27. The trial court found it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the appeal because it was submitted after the statutory filing period. When the plaintiff appealed this decision, he argued that the trial court erred with this finding: he claimed he actually filed his appeal at the same time as his recognizance bond.

The Court’s Decision

Under General Statutes § 4-183(c), a party must file an appeal with the agency that renders a decision either within forty-five days 1) after mailing of the final decision or 2) after the agency denies a petition for reconsideration. In the context of administrative appeals, courts will strictly comply with statutory dictates, and § 4-183(c)’s forty-five day filing requirement is “a mandatory jurisdiction in the first instance.” A reviewing court will not disturb the findings of a trial court unless there is no evidence to support it, or if a review of the evidence leaves the sense that a mistake was made. This is known as the clearly erroneous standard of review.

In this case, the forty-five day statutory period began to run on September 29, 2009, and expired on November 12, 2009, the day the plaintiff filed his recognizance bond. The plaintiff claimed that he handed a copy of his appeal to the clerk at the same time. However, the trial court found that the filing of the bond “did not constitute a ‘filing’ with the clerk of the court” and that the plaintiff did not file his appeal until November 27, 2009. The Appellate Court stated that the trial court was within its discretion to weigh the evidence, and could not hold that the findings made in this case were clearly erroneous. Therefore, it affirmed judgment.

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 JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Because Curative Instructions were Properly Administered, Defendant Did Not Suffer Harmful Error in Her DUI Conviction

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered rejected a defendant’s claims that there was insufficient evidence to convict her of DUI, and that she was harmed by an improper limiting instruction.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 17, 2005. A state police trooper observed the defendant’s vehicle weaving and leaving the traffic lane three times along Route 8 in Trumbull, so he conducted a traffic stop. The trooper noticed the defendant had bloodshot eyes and detected the strong odor of alcohol, and the defendant stated she had two glasses of wine at a restaurant in Fairfield.

The trooper administered three field sobriety tests, all of which the defendant failed, so she was placed under arrest and brought to state police barracks. During questioning, the defendant stated she had two vodka drinks at a restaurant in Bridgeport. She submitted to an Intoxilyzer test twice, which reported a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.159 and 0.143, both of which were above the legal limit of 0.08.

The Charges

The defendant was charged with violating General Statutes §§ 14-227a(a)(1) and (2): operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of an intoxicating liquor and while having an elevated blood alcohol content. At trial, the director of controlled substances in the toxicology laboratory for the Department of Public Safety extrapolated the defendant’s BAC to 0.185 at the time she was operating her car.

The court instructed the jury that the chemical test results could not be considered as evidence of the defendant’s guilt with respect to the behavioral count. “That evidence was offered for a limited purpose only and is admissible only with respect to the allegations contained in [the per se count] of the information.” The jury convicted the defendant and she appealed, arguing insufficiency of the evidence to convict, and that the jury impermissibly considered the toxicologist’s testimony “regarding the result of the Intoxylizer tests” in deciding upon the behavioral count.

Evidentiary Impropriety

When a reviewing court considers a claim of “evidentiary impropriety,” if the issue affects a constitutional right, the state must prove the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if the purported improper ruling is not constitutional in nature, the defendant must prove that the error was harmful. In cases, such as this one, where the defendant is charged under both subsections of § 14-227a(a), “appropriate limiting instructions regarding the use of chemical analysis serve as the proper safeguard.” Thus, if a defendant does not show evidence indicating otherwise, a jury presumably followed the curative instructions given by the trial court.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court found that the defendant did not prove that the jury failed to follow the court’s limiting instruction. Therefore, she failed her burden in establishing harmful error. In addition, the Court agreed that there was plenty of evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to the OMVUI charge. It noted the defendant’s appearance on the scene, the failed field sobriety tests, as well as the inconsistent stories she provided. Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed judgment.

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.

Defendant Argued Concussion Led to Failed Field Sobriety Tests

In a criminal law matter, the Supreme Court of Connecticut reversed the Appellate Court’s decision that the State did not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time he was involved in an accident.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on January 21, 2004, in Westport, Connecticut. The defendant consumed at least two alcoholic beverages between 4pm and 5pm, and was involved in an accident with another vehicle at approximately 6:15pm. The other driver stated that she noticed the defendant’s truck “accelerate rapidly toward her,” and there were no skid marks on the road, indicating the defendant did not attempt to apply his brakes.

When police officers arrived, they observed the defendant bleeding from the nose, swaying and having difficulty standing, and one officer smelled alcohol on the defendant’s body and breath. The defendant became belligerent when the officers administered three field sobriety tests, all of which he failed. At the police station, the defendant refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test, and only partially filled out a refusal form.

The defendant requested medical attention and was brought to Norwalk Hospital. Doctors diagnosed him with bilateral nasal bone fractures, but not a concussion. The CT scan did not show any “cranial abnormalities,” and the defendant did not exhibit any of the common symptoms of a concussion. Furthermore, the doctors did not discharge the defendant with “instructions consistent with an individual suffering from a concussion.” The defendant was subsequently charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol in violation of State law.

The Trial

At trial, the defendant had two doctors testify that he suffered a concussion as a result of the accident, which explained why he failed the field sobriety tests. The trial court was not persuaded, stating that while the testimony “raised the specter that the defendant may have suffered a concussion, [it] did no more.” The court relied on additional evidence indicating intoxication and the nonexistence of a concussion, and the defendant was thereafter convicted.

However, the Appellate Court viewed the testimony of the doctors differently: it stated that one of the doctors “remained firm in rendering his expert medical opinion that the defendant had suffered a concussion.” Therefore, the Appellate Court reversed the conviction, citing insufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was intoxicated when the accident occurred. The State appealed this decision.

The trier of fact, be it a judge or jury, is “free either to accept or reject, in whole or in part,” testimony of the defendant’s witnesses, especially when subject to cross-examination by the State. However, there is no mandate that trial courts must accept un-contradicted expert testimony. Appellate courts will defer to trial court rulings “[a]s long as evidence existed from which the [trier of fact] reasonably could have found the facts and drawn the inferences leading to its guilty verdict.”

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that there was ample evidence to support a conviction of OMVUI. It noted the various findings of the trial court and stated that each was supported by the record. The Supreme Court further wrote that the trial court was “free to weigh the credibility and reliability of the two experts,” and its rejection of their testimony was not clearly erroneous. Therefore, the judgment of the Appellate Court was reversed and the case remanded.

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), 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.

Trial Court Rejects “Hydrocarbon Intoxication” Defense, DUI Conviction Upheld on Appeal

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered a defendant’s claim that the trial court had insufficient evidence to convict him of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of an intoxicating liquor or drug.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred at approximately 4:00pm on June 15, 2006. A retired police officer was driving on his motorcycle, and while waiting at a traffic light, he was struck from behind by the defendant’s van. He approached the vehicle to inquire what happened, and saw that the defendant had squinty eyes and was slow or non-responsive with his answers. The defendant claimed that a five-gallon can of kerosene spilled in the van the night before, and that he was overcome by the kerosene fumes at the time of the accident.

A state trooper arrived at the scene soon after, and he made the following observations of the defendant: blank stare, slurred speech, disorientation, very slight odor of alcohol, a wet groin area, wobbly and lethargic walking, and extremely constricted pupils. In addition, the defendant admitted that he smoked marijuana, drank beer, and ingested Vicodin that morning. The officer conducted three field sobriety tests, all of which the defendant failed, and the officer did not detect a kerosene odor inside the van.

Indeed, an Intoxilyzer test conducted at police barracks, which revealed the defendant’s blood alcohol content as below the legal limit, failed to alert the officers of the presence of hydrocarbon interferants. Based on this evidence, the defendant was charged, and later convicted, of OMVUI, and he appealed on the basis of insufficient evidence.

Reviewing Evidence Sufficiency 

When a court reviews a sufficiency of the evidence claim, it must first construe the evidence “in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict.” Afterward, the court must establish whether the cumulative force of direct and/or circumstantial facts can lead a jury to reasonably conclude the presence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Driving under the influence occurs where “a driver had become so affected in his mental, physical or nervous processes that he lacked to an appreciable degree the ability to function properly in relation to the operation of his vehicle.”

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence on the record to support the defendant’s conviction. It noted the aforementioned evidence regarding the defendant’s behavior and appearance after the accident, and a toxicology expert testified that the absence of opiates from the Vicodin could be explained by the defendant’s urination in his van.

The trial court found it “unlikely that there was such hydrocarbon intoxication,” instead crediting testimony regarding the absence of the smell of kerosene in the defendant’s van and absence of hydrocarbon interferants by the Intoxilyzer test. Therefore, there was ample evidence to support the finding that the defendant ingested alcohol and drugs, then operated his motor vehicle under the influence. The judgment was affirmed.

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), 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.

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

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.

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 JMaya@Mayalaw.com.