Posts tagged with "double jeopardy"

Retrial on Charges at Heart of Jury Deadlock Did Not Violate Double Jeopardy

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a petitioner’s post-conviction claim of double jeopardy, holding that he was subject to a continuing prosecution, not successive prosecutions.

In this case, the petitioner was charged with five counts of risk of injury to a minor child, as well as one count for each of the following: reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a firearm, carrying a pistol without a permit, attempted assault, attempted murder, and possession of narcotics. He was acquitted of attempted murder and convicted of narcotics possession, but the jury deadlocked on the remaining charges. The judge declared a mistrial, and the petitioner was sentenced to five years’ incarceration. The prosecution subsequently charged the petitioner with the same charges on which the jury had hung. Though he was acquitted of attempted assault, he was convicted on the other charges. The petitioner was sentenced to fifteen years’ incarceration, consecutive to his previous sentence, along with eight years’ special probation.

The petitioner engaged in a series of appeals, during which he argued, in part, that the two trials amounted to successive prosecutions in violation of the Fifth Amendment prohibition against double jeopardy. He claimed that controlling precedent “applied to bar the state from prosecuting him in a second trial for the charges on which the jury could not come to a unanimous verdict in the first trial.”

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “No person shall… be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb,” a principle referred to as double jeopardy. To determine whether two offenses charged instead constitute a single offense, courts must determine “whether each provision requires proof of a fact which the other does not.” This so-called Blockburger test applies “not only to charges brought in a single prosecution but to charges in successive prosecution cases as well.” However, the U.S. Supreme Court has held, “[A] trial court’s declaration of a mistrial following a hung jury is not an event that terminates the original jeopardy to which [the defendant] was subjected.” As the Court elaborated:

The double-jeopardy provision of the Fifth Amendment… does not mean that every time the defendant is put to trial before a competent tribunal he is entitled to go free if the trial fails to end in a final judgment. Such a rule would create an insuperable obstacle to the administration of justice in many cases in which there is no semblance of the type of oppressive practices at which the double-jeopardy prohibition is aimed.

Richardson v. United States, 468 U.S. 317 (1984). Rather, the Court noted the possible occurrence of unforeseeable circumstances, such as a hung jury, and denying the State the power to retry a defendant under such a scenario would frustrate the protective purpose of our laws.

With these principles in mind, in this case the Appellate Court of Connecticut held that “the state’s retrial of the petitioner on charges that deadlocked the jury” did not violate double jeopardy. As the Court explained, “the declaration of a mistrial due to the jury’s failure to agree on the remaining charges was not an event that terminated jeopardy as to those charges.” Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

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’s Double Jeopardy Protections Violated When Charged With and Convicted Under Both Subsections of State DUI Statute

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut reversed, in part, a defendant’s conviction of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) under both General Statutes §§ 14-227a(a)(1) and (2).

This case arose from an incident that occurred on April 6, 2005. The defendant was involved in a car accident that resulted in one fatality. He was charged and convicted of four counts: second degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, second degree manslaughter, OMVUI in violation of § 14-227a(a)(1), and OMVUI in violation of § 14-227a(a)(2). The defendant appealed his conviction, claiming a violation of his protection against double jeopardy.

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. In reviewing a defendant’s double jeopardy claim, a court will use the Blockburger test to determine whether one criminal statute has an element of proof that the other does not. Blockburger v. U.S., 284 U.S. 299 (1932). 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.

In this case, the Appellate Court did not agree that the defendant’s protections against double jeopardy were violated with respect to the manslaughter charges. The Court noted that each offense required proof of an element the other did not have, “namely, being under the influence of alcohol in count one and reckless conduct in count two.” The Court was not persuaded that driving under the influence is similar to reckless conduct, and noted that the legislature intended that defendants could be charged with and convicted of both of these crimes.

However, the Court agreed, and the State conceded, that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated by the two OMVUI counts. Even though each had an element of proof the other did not – operation under the influence and an elevated blood alcohol content – it was not the legislature’s intent for a defendant to be charged with both in the same case. The two subsections of § 14-227a(a) are meant to be “alternative means of committing the same offense” and provide for “different methods of proof.” The legislature clearly indicated a defendant could not be punished under both subsections.

The Appellate Court concluded that the defendant’s double jeopardy protection was violated with respect to the OMVUI counts. Therefore, it reversed and remanded the case and instructed the trial court to combine these into a single OMVUI count and resentence the defendant accordingly. The judgment was otherwise affirmed.

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.

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.

As an example of the interaction between these principles of law, consider a recent 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 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.

To speak with a criminal attorney call us at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation or reach out to Managing Partner Joesph Maya via email at jmaya@mayalaw.com.

Appellate Court Considers Whether Evidence of Previously-Set Fire Was Improperly Admitted in Arson Trial

In “Double Jeopardy Not Implicated in Case Where Man Purposefully Burned Down His Home to Collect Nearly $400,000 in Insurance Payments,” the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s claims that his constitutional protections against double jeopardy were violated when he was convicted of both larceny in the first degree and insurance fraud. The Court considered other matters on his appeal, including whether or not the court improperly admitted testimony.

In her sworn statement, the defendant’s daughter informed police that the defendant had purposefully set her car on fire during the summer of 2001. She explained that she did not want to have to continue making her car payments, so the defendant “told [her] that he was going to start a fire in the car and make it look like an electrical fire so that she could collect the insurance and pay off the automobile loan.” His effort was a success: police determined the damage was accidental, the car was deemed a total loss, and the insurance company, as expected, paid her claim.

Prior to the defendant’s trial for arson, insurance fraud, and larceny, he filed a motion seeking to exclude any evidence related to car fire. He argued that he did not receive any of the proceeds, was never charged for a crime, and the evidence was more prejudicial than probative. The State countered that this evidence of misconduct was admissible because it was relevant in establishing intent as to whether the house fire was accidental and showed a common scheme. The court denied the motion but issued a jury instruction that the purpose of the evidence was to establish “a method or plan or scheme… in the commission of criminal acts or the existence of intent or the absence of accident.”

Generally, evidence of a defendant’s prior bad acts is inadmissible to prove guilt on a present charge. However, “evidence of crimes so connected as to tend directly to prove the commission of the charged crime is admissible.” Such evidence will be admitted only if it is relevant to a statutory exception, such as proving intent, and the probative value outweighs the prejudicial effect. In this case, the Appellate Court agreed with the defendant that the daughter’s statement was inadmissible to show a common scheme or plan because the car fire occurred more than a year before the house fire. However, the Court sided with the State and found the evidence was admissible “to prove the closely related issues of intent… lack of accident or mistake.” As the Court elaborated:

The evidence that the defendant started a fire in the automobile in order that his daughter might recover insurance proceeds tended to prove that he knew how to start a fire that appeared to be accidental in nature and that he intentionally set the fire to his residence to recover insurance proceeds.

Whether or not the house fire was accidental in nature became an issue in the case, so the evidence regarding the car fire made “utterly limpid his subsequent intent to burn down his house… to recover the insurance proceeds.” After determining the evidence would not “shock the sensibilities” of the jury, resulting in undue prejudice to the defendant, the Appellate Court affirmed judgment as to this aspect of the defendant’s appeal.

When faced with a charge of arson, fraud, or larceny, 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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Double Jeopardy Not Implicated in Case Where Man Purposefully Burned Down His Home to Collect Nearly $400,000 in Insurance Payments

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut determined that conviction for first-degree larceny and insurance fraud did not violate double jeopardy protections, or that the latter charge was a lesser-included offense of the former.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on December 15, 2002. Police responded to a fire at the defendant’s home, where investigators concluded that the fire appeared “accidental in nature,” though its origin was unknown. The defendant collected over $386,000 under his insurance policies for structural damage, debris removal, loss of personal property, and living expenses.

One year later, the home in which the defendant’s daughter lived was burglarized. Her laptop, which the defendant previously stole from his employer, was among the items taken. Police later recovered the laptop and called the daughter; when she came to collect it, police explained that the defendant claimed it was stolen. In turn, the daughter revealed that the defendant purposefully burned down their house on the night of December 15, 2005. In a sworn statement, she explained that the defendant was having financial issues and told her of his plan, asking that she help him transport items to a rental storage unit. After the fire, the defendant “was laughing at the fire investigators calling them ‘stupid… because he thought he got away with [setting the fire].”

Police reopened the investigation and obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s newly built house, where they found many items listed in the insurance claims as lost to the fire. The defendant was charged and convicted for arson in the first degree, larceny in the first degree, insurance fraud, and conspiracy. The defendant appealed, arguing, in part, that his conviction for both first-degree larceny and insurance fraud violated double jeopardy.

Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a criminal defendant cannot receive two punishments for two crimes, which he asserts to be a single crime, arising from the same act and prosecuted in a single trial. To be entitled to this double jeopardy protection, a criminal defendant must show that the charges arise from the same transaction or occurrence and that the charged crimes are, in fact, the same offense. If, however, the court determines that each charge requires proof of an element that the other does not, double jeopardy is typically not implicated.

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that larceny in the first degree and insurance fraud each possess unique essential elements. The former does not “require any proof as to the method or manner of obtaining the currency,” while the latter did not have a requisite dollar amount for the value of the property taken. The defendant countered that because insurance fraud is a lesser-included offense to larceny in the first degree, his constitutional rights were violated.

Even where two charges have unique elements, double jeopardy may nonetheless be implicated if the two charges are a lesser-included and greater offense. A lesser-included offense is one that must first be completed to make it possible to commit the greater offense. As an example, assault is a lesser-included offense to robbery, because every robbery includes the commission of an assault. If, however, the lesser offense need not be committed, it is not an included offense. In this case, the Appellate Court determined that insurance fraud was not a lesser included offense because the commission of larceny did not require the presentation of false, incomplete, or misleading statements in support of a fraudulent claim. Therefore, with this respect to the appeal, the Court affirmed judgment.

To see how the defendant fared on his claim that the court improperly admitted evidence, please read “Appellate Court Considers Whether Evidence of Previously-Set Fire Was Improperly Admitted in Arson Trial.”

When faced with a charge of arson, fraud, or larceny, 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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