Posts tagged with "evasion of responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle"

Appellate Court Upholds Evading Responsibility Conviction; Defendant Avoided Identification, Failed to Help the Victim

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim following his conviction for evasion of responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle (evading responsibility).

In this case, the defendant and two friends were at a nightclub when they engaged in a verbal argument with another group, which included the victim. Each group left in their respective cars, with the defendant as a driver, and raced each other along Interstate 95 through Stamford. After getting off the highway, each vehicle was idling at a red light when the victim left his car and attacked the defendant through the driver’s side window. The defendant dragged the victim down the road “in an effort to remove him,” but after swift application of the brakes failed to do so, the defendant hit the gas and the victim fell off. The victim’s friends found him lying in the road with blood running from his mouth and the back of his head, and the victim died shortly thereafter.

The defendant did not stop to provide any aid to the victim. Instead, he drove to his apartment complex, which was located nearby, and rather than notifying police of the incident himself, his friend made the phone call instead. During this phone call, the friend claimed that he was the driver and did not inform police about the victim’s injuries. The defendant and the third occupant perpetuated this lie. However, the defendant subsequently admitted that he was the driver, and gave a new sworn statement relaying the events as they actually occurred. The defendant was charged with and convicted of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, evading responsibility, and third-degree making a false statement. Following sentencing, the defendant appealed, claiming there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction of evading responsibility. He agreed that the predicate elements (first three) were proven, but claimed that he was “legally justified” in leaving the scene and complied with the statutory requirements.

When a court considers a sufficiency of the evidence claim, it must first “construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the conviction.” The court must then determine whether or not the facts admitted to evidence, along with attendant inferences, support a jury’s determination of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To convict a criminal defendant of evading responsibility under General Statutes § 14-224(a), 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. Connecticut courts have held, however, that this statute “does not leave an operator an excuse for failing to stop.”

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that the jury reasonably concluded that the defendant evaded responsibility. He never reported the accident; rather, his friend made the call. The friend “failed to inform the police of the circumstances of the accident and the fact that the victim had been injured, [nor did he] identify the defendant as the operator.” During the initial investigation, the defendant did nothing to reveal the truth of what occurred. The Court noted that in a previous case, the Supreme Court of Connecticut stated, “[t]he purpose of the statute on evading responsibility is to ensure that when the driver of a motor vehicle is involved in an accident, he or she will promptly stop, render any necessary assistance and identify himself or herself.” The defendant failed to satisfy the requirements of § 14-227(a), and after considering and rejecting additional matters on 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.

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“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.

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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.

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