Posts tagged with "credibility"

Defendant Argued Concussion Led to Failed Field Sobriety Tests

In a recent 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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Accepting Recommendation of Guardian Ad Litem Not Abuse of Discretion

In a recent divorce action, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered whether a trial court abused its discretion in not following the wishes of the minor children in determining what was in their best interests, and for following the recommendation of the appointed guardian ad litem.

When a court creates or modifies orders governing child custody and visitation, it is imperative that they place the best interests of the children at the forefront. General Statutes § 46b-56(c) enumerates sixteen non-exclusive factors that a court may consider. The wish of a child is one factor – but it isn’t the only one. In this case, the trial court seriously considered the children’s preferences as part of a larger picture, and elected against honoring them. As the court put it, the middle child “can’t be the one that is making the decisions here.” The Appellate Court found that the trial court properly considered the entirety of the evidence it had on hand and weighed many of the factors governing the best interests of the children. As such, the Appellate Court denied this ground for appeal.

A court may appoint a guardian ad litem (guardian) if the court doing so is in the best interests of a minor child. This person is disinterested, or “unbiased by personal interest or advantage,” and as such speaks on behalf of the child’s best interest. Guardians are tasked with a multitude of duties, which include making recommendations to the court through testimony. The credibility and evidentiary effect of this testimony is weighed by the trial court, to which the appellate courts will defer. In this case, the mother admitted that the guardian was a “seasoned veteran and a competent professional [with] no ax to grind.” The attorney for the minor children echoed similar sentiment. When the guardian testified on behalf of the father, all attorneys involved had a fair opportunity to cross-examine her. As the Appellate Court determined, the guardian’s role was to provide a recommendation as a neutral party, to be considered with all other evidence before the court, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by following her recommendation. As such, the court denied this ground for appeal as well.

Whether advancing or defending a pendente lite order to modify custody or visitation, a parent is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, 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.
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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut 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. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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Husband Held in Contempt After Attempt to Conceal $250,000 in Marital Assets

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a recent dissolution action, the Appellate Court of Connecticut upheld a trial court’s finding of contempt when the defendant refused to return marital assets pursuant to a pendente lite automatic order.

On January 3, 2011, the defendant husband withdrew $250,000 from the parties’ joint home equity line of credit without the plaintiff wife’s knowledge or consent. Later that month, the wife served the husband with her complaint seeking dissolution of the marriage. In March 2011, the wife filed a motion for order pendente lite, in which she asked the court to order the husband to return the monies he withdrew. The husband claimed stated that he withdrew the money to repay a loan to his daughter. The husband’s daughter testified to similar effect. However, the court was not persuaded, and the court granted the wife’s motion with a return date of April 4, 2011. When the husband failed to comply, the court found him in contempt and he was later arrested. He filed an appeal, claiming the court abused its discretion because “the finding of contempt was based on the violation of an order that the court was without authority to issue.”

Courts enjoy “wide discretion and broad equitable power” to effectuate the goal of providing appropriate relief in domestic relations cases. Court orders must be obeyed until either modified or successfully challenged, and willful violation of an order of the court constitutes contempt. In this case, the Appellate Court determined that the trial court had authority to order the husband to pay back the $250,000, and because he failed to comply, a finding of contempt was not an abuse of discretion.

Trial courts are in the best position to assign the weight of credibility to a party’s testimony. Therefore, in this case, when the trial court elected to find the husband’s and his daughter’s claims to be unreliable, the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The Appellate Court found that it was reasonable for the trial court to conclude that the husband and his daughter were “engaged in a scheme to conceal and protect marital assets that had been taken by the defendant for no valid reason or purpose.” Furthermore, even though the husband withdrew the money before the pendente lite period began, his attempts to conceal the money continued after the orders were in place. It was immaterial that he did not actually possess the money – he bore the consequences of his conduct. Therefore, a finding that he was in violation of the orders was proper.

Whether advancing or defending a pre- or post-judgment motion regarding awards of alimony, assignment of property, and child support, a divorced individual is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, 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.
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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut 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. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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State Presented Sufficient Evidence that Defendant “Intended to Convert the Property to His Use Without Paying For It”

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the defendant’s conviction for sixth degree larceny, as he had the requisite intent to commit the crime.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on May 5, 2005. The defendant purchased a foam poster board from Staples in Fairfield, but as he was exiting the main store into the foyer, he was not carrying it. Instead, he was observed scooting a box with an item he did not pay for along the floor beneath the theft detection sensors located adjacent to the exit doors. The defendant scooped it up and proceeded outside, with store employees in pursuit. When one yelled at him to “drop the box,” the defendant placed it on a nearby dolly and quickly left the area. Inside the box was “a Uniden telephone, in its original packaging, that was offered for sale” at the store.

Another Staples customer observed the defendant getting into a vehicle and driving off. She informed the store manager, who wrote down the license plate and called police. Officers identified the owner as the defendant’s girlfriend and proceeded to her residence, where they located the car (which had signs of recent use) but not the defendant. Soon thereafter, the defendant turned himself in and provided police with a signed written statement in which he accepted responsibility for his actions.

The defendant was charged with larceny in the sixth degree by shoplifting, and for being a persistent larceny offender. At trial, the defendant testified that he came across the box inside the store and immediately returned it to a sales associate. He denied leaving the store with the box or having knowledge of its contents, and stated he never intended to leave the store without paying for it. The sales associate and store manager provided a much different version of the events. The jury returned a guilty verdict on the larceny count, and the defendant pled guilty to the second, resulting in three years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant contended that the State provided insufficient evidence that he had the requisite intent to commit larceny.

Under Connecticut General Statute (CGS) § 53a-119, “[a] person commits larceny when, with the intent to [permanently] deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds such property from an owner.” Larceny is considered a specific intent crime, so the State must provide direct or circumstantial evidence (most often the latter) that the defendant possessed a “subjective desire or knowledge that his actions constituted stealing” at the time of the crime.

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that the defendant confused sufficiency and credibility issues. He appeared to argue that all of the testimony was identical. However, this is an inaccurate reading of the trial court record, for there were vast discrepancies between the testimonies given by the defendant and State’s witnesses. It is the province of the jury to weigh the credibility of witness testimony and believe all of it, some of it, or none of it. Thus, the jury was within its right to credit the testimony of the State witnesses, and such testimony, along with the defendant’s written statement, provided sufficient evidence that the defendant intended to take the phone without paying for it.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or attempt, 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.

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Trial Court Did Not Err in Rejecting Irrelevant Evidence; Appellate Court Upholds Conviction

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s convictions following a traffic stop that revealed reckless driving.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on March 14, 2006. Bethel police initiated a traffic stop to investigate the defendant’s dump truck and trailer for properly displayed plates. The plates were present but obscured, and officers immediately noticed a wire hanging from the rear of the trailer. Upon further inspection of the trailer, officers determined that the wire was disconnected, from the trailer’s independent braking system. Furthermore, it did not appear to be connected to the dump truck or “any other source that could have provided power to the trailer’s brakes.” Officers requested that the defendant demonstrate whether or not the trailer’s brakes operated, but the defendant refused to comply. Officers cited the defendant for reckless driving, driving with obscured license plates, and failing to carry a valid insurance card. Upon the arrival of a tow truck, the defendant relinquished his keys and stated to the tow-truck driver, “There’s still no brakes [on the trailer] with you towing it.”

The defendant submitted a motion seeking to introduce Connecticut statutes and agency regulations as evidence that the officers lacked authority to inspect his trailer’s brakes. He also proffered evidence that “demonstrated a sense of bias against the defendant among [other] officers that had filtered throughout the Bethel police department and affected the credibility of the officers who were at the scene and who testified during the state’s case-in-chief.” The trial court denied the motion, saying the evidence was irrelevant. Subsequently, the defendant was convicted of the three cited charges as well as interfering with an officer. He appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion.

In Connecticut, police officers have the duty to enforce our laws and preserve the peace. “If [an officer] is acting under a good faith belief that he is carrying out that duty, and if his actions are reasonably designed to that end, he is acting in the performance of his duties.” Quite notably, such duties are not merely restricted to the arrest function. In this case, the Appellate Court reviewed the statutes and regulations offered by the defendant, but was not persuaded that the officers did not have authority to inspect the brakes on his trailer. Therefore, it concluded that preclusion of this evidence was not an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

Evidence is relevant if it makes the existence of a material fact more or less probable, so long as it is neither unduly prejudicial nor cumulative. However, it is the duty of the proffering party to establish relevance with a proper foundation. In the context of impeachment evidence, this may be accomplished in one of three ways: an offer of proof, independent establishment by the record itself, or statement of a good faith believe that the inquiry is justified by an adequate factual basis. In this case, the defendant failed to provide any connection between evidence of bias and the lack of credibility of the officers involved in this case. Rather, his claims were purely speculative, and “[i]t is entirely proper for a court to deny a request to present certain testimony that will further nothing more than a fishing expedition… or result in a wild goose chase.” Therefore, the judgments were affirmed.

When faced with a charge of 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.

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