Posts tagged with "evading responsibility"

Motion to Dismiss Denied Where Defendant Failed to Establish Due Process Violation from Pre-Arrest Delay

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut considered a defendant’s pre-trial motion to dismiss charges against her due to “unreasonable delay” in prosecutorial efforts.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on November 29, 2006, in New Haven, CT. The defendant was involved in an automobile collision with a city bus, resulting in her month-long hospitalization before she returned to her residence, which she occupied prior to and after the accident. A detective prepared an arrest warrant, which was signed on December 14, 2006, but made only one attempt to serve it on the defendant, which was unsuccessful. Approximately fifteen months of inaction passed before the defendant “turned herself in,” indicating she became award of the arrest warrant.

The defendant was charged with second-degree assault with a motor vehicle (Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 53a-60d), operating under the influence (CGS § 14-227a), and evading responsibility (CGS § 14-224(b)). She filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that warrant was not served within a reasonable time and beyond the statute of limitations. She further claimed that the pre-arrest delay violated her constitutionally protected due process rights. In support of her motion, the defendant did not present any evidence of “the impact, if any, the fifteen-month delay had on the defendant’s ability to present a defense.”

What Constitutes an Unreasonable Delay?

Under CGS § 54-193(b), our statute of limitations law, the State can prosecute an individual for a crime resulting in a sentence in excess of one year within five years after the date of the offense. However, “the warrant must still be executed without unreasonable delay to preserve the primary purpose of the statute of limitations.” Where a defendant asserts due process violations stemming from pre-arrest delays, he or she must prove “both that (1) actual substantial prejudice resulted from the delay and (2) that the reasons for the delay were wholly unjustifiable, as where the state seeks to gain a tactical advantage.”

There is no per se rule regarding whether the length of a delay is unreasonable. In State v. Crawford, a decision rendered by Connecticut’s Supreme Court, the arrest warrant was not executed for more than two years after it was issued, yet this did not warrant a dismissal of the charges.

Court’s Ruling

In this case, the Superior Court found that the fifteen-month delay was not per se unreasonable, in large part referencing the longer and unexplained, yet permissible delay in Crawford. Even if the delay due to a lack of due diligence was found unreasonable, “[t]he evidence presented to this court did not demonstrate that the defendant has suffered any disadvantage.” The defendant did not provide any evidence of prejudice beyond “mere allegations,” and there was “no evidence in the record to support a claim that the state sought to gain a tactical advantage over the defendant by virtue of the pre-arrest delay.” Therefore, the Superior Court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

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.

Jury Instruction Was “Accurate,” Not Misleading: Appeals Court Affirms Evading Responsibility Judgment

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s claim that the trial court’s jury instruction regarding the elements of evasion of responsibility was misleading.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the night of July 16, 2001, in Bridgeport, CT. The defendant consumed six beers in three and a half hours before and while eating dinner. He left the restaurant in his truck and approached the same intersection as the victim, who was on a motorcycle. Without signaling, the defendant turned into the victim’s path, and despite significant effort to avoid a collision, the victim struck the back end of the truck. The victim was thrown from his motorcycle and died from his injuries. A witness observed the accident and later testified that “the truck then stopped, the defendant stepped out of the truck, looked, got back in and took off.” Police pursued the defendant, who stopped only after he was forced to by a second police cruiser. The defendant was visibly intoxicated, and blood alcohol tests produced readings of 0.172 and 0.167, over twice the legal limit.

The defendant was charged with second-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, and evading responsibility, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) §§ 53a-56(a)(1), 53a-56b(a), and 14-224(a), respectively. At trial, the defendant testified that “while he was turning left, after giving a signal, he felt an impact toward the rear of his truck, saw nothing and thought someone had hit his vehicle and driven off.” The defendant was convicted on the second two counts. He appealed his conviction, arguing, in part, that the trial court did not properly instruct the jury regarding the elements of evading responsibility. Specifically, he claimed:

1)      The court misled the jury by using the word “prevent” rather than “unable” with respect to reporting requirements of CGS § 14-224(a).

2)      The court improperly instructed the jury that it had to find that “some outside force caused the defendant to be unable to report the information,” rather than “the defendant’s being unable to report for any cause or reason.”

3)      The court did not instruct the jury that the defendant was legally excused from the remaining statutory requirements because he was arrested while seeking assistance for the victim.

The Appellate Court was not persuaded by any of these arguments. Because the defendant did not draw a sufficient distinction between the use of “prevent” and “unable,” the court’s use of the first word was harmless. The Court reiterated that CGS § 14-224(a) does not provide any legal excuse for failing to stop. As the legislative history indicates, “failure to stop immediately cannot be cured at some later time by an operator reporting the incident to police.” As such, a reasonable jury could find that the defendant did not immediately stop and render assistance to the victim following the collision, and by leaving the scene he was not satisfying his duties under the statute. The Appellate Court found that the jury instruction, as given, was proper and did not deprive the defendant of a fair trial.

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Court Considers Whether Reckless Driving Conviction Was Proper Under Revised Charge

In “Whether Driver Intended to Hit Victim or Not, It Was Still an Accident Under Connecticut’s Evading Responsibility Statute,” we learned that the intent of the defendant was not relevant to the meaning of “accident” for purposes of the evading responsibility statute. Regardless of which story the jury chose to believe, there was sufficient evidence that the defendant unintentionally struck the victim with his car.

This article focuses on whether or not the defendant succeeded on his claim that the trial court erred in denying his post-conviction motion on the charge of reckless driving. For an individual to be convicted of reckless driving in violation of General Statutes § 14-222(a), the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant drove in a reckless manner on highways, roads, school properties, and parking areas. However, in its substitute information, the State charged the defendant with reckless driving on a municipal road. As a result, the judge specifically instructed the jury, “In order for you to find the defendant guilty of reckless driving, the state must prove that… the defendant operated a motor vehicle on a municipal road…”

During the trial, the State offered an aerial map of the city in which the accident occurred, but this map did not indicate “what entity owned or maintained the streets it depicted, or whether the streets are private or open to the public.” In addition, there was no information on the map that would assist the jury with inferring such facts. Additional officer testimony left in question who maintained the road on which the accident occurred.

On appeal, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on the revised charge of reckless driving, and the Appellate Court agreed. “The record… does not contain any evidence from which the jury, without resorting to speculation and conjecture, could infer that [the one-way street] was a municipal road.” Therefore, the Court found the trial court improperly denied the defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal and reversed the reckless driving conviction.

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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

In a recent 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.

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.”

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.

For the Appellate Court’s determination with respect to the reckless driving charge, please read “Court Considers Whether Reckless Driving Conviction Was Proper Under Revised Charge.”

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Driver Found Guilty of Evading Responsibility, Despite Not Realizing He Caused Victim’s Death

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conviction for evading responsibility, unconvinced that the State did not present sufficient evidence of the crime.

This case arose from an incident that occurred shortly before midnight on June 3, 2008. A tractor trailer struck a motorcycle driven by the victim, who was killed instantly. However, the driver of the truck did not stop to render any assistance, but instead drove off. Subsequently, the defendant, a tractor-trailer truck driver, was arrested and charged with evading responsibility in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 14-224(a).

At trial, the State presented testimony from two witnesses. The first saw the accident and testified that she observed two working headlights on the tractor-trailer truck just prior to the collision. A second witness observed a tractor-trailer truck parked a short distance from the accident. This witness “saw the driver get out of the cab of the truck, walk around to its front, and then get back into the cab and drive away.” This witness further noted that the truck’s left headlight was not lit, and both witnesses described unique features and characteristics that were present on the defendant’s tractor-trailer truck.

The State also submitted a sworn police statement given by the defendant. He stated that he was driving at the intersection at the time of the incident when “he heard a ‘bang.’ He stated that he assumed something had become ‘hung up between the truck and the trailer’ and therefore stopped only briefly before leaving the scene of the accident.” The defendant further claimed that the headlight that was out was in that condition earlier that night. The jury found the defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to forty-four months of incarceration. The defendant appealed, arguing that the State provided insufficient evidence that he was the driver of the truck that killed the motorcyclist, and that he knew he was involved in an accident.

To convict an individual under CGS § 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…” Particularly important, however, is the interaction between the second and third elements: a defendant doesn’t have to know that the accident actually caused an injury.

In this case, the Appellate Court believed that based on the evidence presented, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the defendant was the driver in question. Furthermore, that the defendant did not know he caused an injury was not dispositive. “[W]hether a defendant had knowledge that an accident caused injury… is irrelevant to the crime of evading responsibility.” Because the first three elements were satisfied and the defendant did not stop to render assistance to the victim, the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he violated CGS § 14-224(a). After addressing and rejecting additional matters on appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed judgment.

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Sentence Imposed was “Fully Merited, Appropriate, and Proportionate,” Division Denies Modification

In a recent criminal law matter, the Sentencing Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to reduce the sentence of a petitioner because the sentence was not inappropriate or disproportionate.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on June 27, 2007. The victim was arriving at her home when she saw the petitioner, who she did not know, run out of her house and promptly drive away. Police located the petitioner, but he would not stop and led them on a high-speed chase before escaping. However, he was tracked down and arrested the next day.

The petitioner was charged and convicted, following a jury trial, of the following counts:

  1. Burglary (Third Degree): maximum of five years of incarceration. If Persistent Serious Felony Offender, then maximum of ten years of incarceration.
  2. Criminal Mischief (Third Degree): maximum of six months in jail.
  3. Engaging Police in Pursuit: maximum one year in jail.
  4. Evading Responsibility: minimum of one year in jail, maximum of five years of incarceration.
  5. Reckless Driving: maximum of thirty days in jail.

Because of his lengthy criminal record and lack of remorse or acceptance of responsibility, the petitioner was sentenced to a total of twelve years of incarceration. He sought a reduced sentence, arguing that he should “not be penalized for exercising his right to a jury trial” and that he deserved a credit for admitting to being a Persistent Serious Felony Offender.

The Division is very limited statutorily in their modification authority to sentences that are “inappropriate” or “disproportionate.” Upon review of this case, the Division believed that the trial court imposed a proper sentence, and noted that there was nothing in the record indicating the petitioner was penalized for going to trial. Rather, “[t]he sentence imposed is fully merited, appropriate and proportionate.” Therefore, the sentence was affirmed.

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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

In a recent 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).

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.

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 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.

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Defendant Unsuccessfully Appeals Evading Responsibility Charge Due to Sufficient Evidence to Convict Prior to Alleged Unlawful Entry

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s arguments on appeal that his arrest was the product of an illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the night of February 2, 2006. The defendant was driving under the influence with two passengers when lost control of his car and struck two wooden guardrails. An eyewitness called police, but the defendant drove away before a state trooper arrived. The eyewitness explained that after the collision, he heard a female screaming and she appeared injured. He further noted that the driver, who appeared intoxicated, exited the car and ripped off the front bumper. The trooper searched the scene, noting “two damaged guardrail posts, empty beer bottles, a shoe and an automobile bumper.” The bumper’s license plate helped the trooper identify the vehicle’s owner as the defendant.

With back-up, the trooper proceeded to the defendant’s residence, where he saw a vehicle with fresh body damage and a missing front bumper. They approached the front door, knocked and announced their presence, but no one answered. Based on the eyewitness testimony, the car damage, and his experience and training, the trooper was concerned about the health and safety of the vehicle’s occupants. They entered the residence, noting a shoe on the floor matching the one at the scene, and found the defendant sleeping. The troopers could not wake him up, and because the defendant “would stop breathing for several seconds every few minutes,” they called for paramedics.

The paramedics arrived and successfully roused the defendant, who quickly became agitated and ordered everyone out of his home. The troopers attempted to “ascertain the condition of the female passenger,” but the defendant would not answer this question, or sign a summons for evasion of responsibility. Therefore, troopers attempted to initiate an arrest, but the defendant resisted and hurled saliva at the troopers twice, hitting one of them in the leg, before he was handcuffed.

The defendant was charged with evasion of responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle, assault of public safety personnel, and interfering with an officer in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) §§ 14-224(b), 53a-167c, and 53a-167a, respectively. The defendant filed a motion to suppress “all evidence seized and all arrests made,” arguing they were all in violation of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. This motion was denied because the court believed that officers entered his household properly under the emergency doctrine exception to the exclusionary rule. The defendant appealed following his conviction, claiming, in part, that the court abused its discretion in denying his motion to suppress evidence.

Generally, evidence obtained as a result of prior illegal police action will be excluded from evidence. To determine whether application of the exclusionary rule is proper, a court must determine “whether the challenged evidence is in some sense the product of illegal government activity.” If, however, the inclusion on the record of illegally obtained evidence was harmless – that it did not contribute to the defendant’s conviction in a meaningful way – a court will not grant a new trial for failure to grant a motion to suppress. In this case, there was ample evidence to convict for evading responsibility before the troopers entered the defendant’s home. Though the shoe observed inside the home may have “bolstered the state’s case to some extent,” the Appellate Court did not believe it was enough to contribute to conviction.

In a relatively recent decision, the Supreme Court of Connecticut adopted a new exception to the exclusionary rule: the new crime exception. This exception applies if subsequent crimes are “sufficiently attenuated from the alleged illegal entry by the police.” In this case, the Appellate Court was convinced such a gap in time existed from when officers first entered the defendant’s home and when the defendant became combative. Therefore, the Appellate Court declined to grant a new trial on the basis of the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. After addressing and rejecting additional matters of appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.