Posts tagged with "cumulative punishments"

Defendant Unsuccessfully Contests Jury Instructions on Intent, But Succeeds With Double Jeopardy Claim

Appellate Court of Connecticut: Multi-Count Conviction

In a criminal law matter involving a double jeopardy claim, the Appellate Court of Connecticut reversed in part and affirmed in part a defendant’s multi-count conviction following a coordinated ambush that left numerous victims with serious injuries.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 2, 2004. An individual “orchestrated a plan” to exact retribution against a group who attacked him a week earlier, recruiting approximately twenty relatives and friends, including the defendant, for an ambush at an enclosed basketball court. The plan was successful, and the defendant shot one victim twice and stabbed another multiple times in the back.

Charged with Ten Counts

The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with ten counts: two for conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree, six for assault in the first degree as an accessory, and two for assault in the first degree. Before specifically instructing the jury as to the elements of each offense, the court first gave an instruction “as to the concept of intent generally.” The defendant stated he had no objections to the instructions as given. The defendant was convicted on nine of ten counts (including both conspiracy charges) and sentenced to twenty-nine years’ incarceration.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the general intent instruction misled the jury because it allowed them to convict based on “intent to engage in the prohibited conduct without determining that he specifically intended to cause serious physical injury.” He further contended that his convictions for two counts of conspiracy, for which he received two sentences, violated double jeopardy protections because they were one crime arising from a single incident.

When a court reviews the appropriateness of a jury instruction, it must decide whether the charge in its entirety, rather than a section in isolation, properly presents the case to the jury. The Supreme Court of Connecticut has consistently held that “[a] trial court’s repeated instruction that specific intent was an element of the crime charged eliminated any possibility that the jurors reasonably could have mistakenly believed that the defendant could properly have been found guilty based on a finding of only general intent.”

The Court’s Findings

In this case, the Appellate Court reviewed the trial transcripts and counted the phrase “intended to cause serious physical injury to another person” twenty times, while “specific intent” was used seven times. In stark contrast, the general intent instruction was only referred to three times, and its inclusion may have actually assisted the jury in understanding the meaning of specific intent. The Court determined that the trial court “unmistakably conveyed to the jury that specific intent was an element of the assault charges against the defendant.” Thus, this aspect of the defendant’s appeal failed.

The defendant, however, succeeded on his second claim regarding double jeopardy, with which the State agreed. An individual cannot receive cumulative punishments for two or more crimes, which he asserts instead comprise of a single crime, arising out of the same transaction or occurrence. Typically, a court will look at the statutes to determine if one requires proof of an element the other does not possess. In this case, however, it was quite clear that there were two conspiracy convictions stemming from a single agreement – the ambush. Therefore, the Court reversed the convictions and ordered the trial court to merge the conviction on these two counts while vacating the sentence for one of them.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of assault, conspiracy, or accessory, 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

Legislative Intent Key to Whether Punishments Violate Double Jeopardy Protections

Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, criminal defendants cannot receive two punishments for two crimes, which he asserts to be a single crime, arising from the same transaction and prosecuted in a single trial. To be entitled to this protection, a criminal defendant must show that the charges arise from the same act or transaction and that the charged crimes are, in fact, the same offense. However, the protection against double jeopardy is not absolute where the legislature intended cumulative punishment under two statutes, and this intent is articulated either on the face of the statute or through legislative history.

Appealing Double Jeopardy Charges

As an example of the interaction between these principles of law, consider an appellate case where a defendant was charged with both criminal possession of a firearm and criminal violation of a protective order. These charges arose out of a single transaction in Shelton on or about August 10, 2005, when defendant possessed a firearm despite knowing that he was subject to a protective order of the court. The defendant was charged and convicted under General Statutes §§ 53a-217(a)(3)(A) and 53a-223(a). On appeal, the defendant argued that these crimes constituted the same offense, since one could not have happened without having committed the other. As such, being convicted of and sentenced for both violated double jeopardy.

The Appellate Court credited the defendant’s argument, referencing a case where a defendant could not have violated his protective order without also committing the crime of trespass. However, the Court acknowledged that double jeopardy does not limit whether or not a legislature may split a single transaction into separate crimes, allowing the prosecution multiple avenues of charging in a single proceeding. In essence, multiple punishments are possible where there is one transaction.

The Court’s Decision

The Court delved into the language of each statute and found that neither contained prohibitions on multiple punishments for the same offense. In fact, neither statute made reference to the other. At this point, the Court found the legislative history of § 53a-223 to be rather telling. Representative Michael P. Lawlor explained, “Once you’re subject to a restraining order or a protective order, you’re not permitted to have a firearm. In fact, you’re obligated to turn in your firearm within a relatively short period of time.” When asked what would happen in a case where a defendant violated both a protective order and another criminal statute, Representative Lawlor said that both statutes would apply.

The Court found that the defendant’s conviction for violating both §§ 53a-217(a)(3)(A) and 53a-223(a) was consistent with legislative intent to provide cumulative punishments for the single act of possessing a firearm in violation of a protective order. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

If you have any questions relating to criminal matters, please contact Joseph Maya and the other experienced attorneys at our Westport, CT office at (203) 221-3100 or via email at