In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered a defendant’s evidentiary claims when he appealed his operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) conviction.
This case arose from an incident that occurred after midnight on December 2, 2005. A Greenwich police officer saw the defendant driving erratically on Route 1: he was swerving and drifting between lanes, sped up and slowed down for no apparent reason, and struck a bright orange traffic cone. The officer initiated a traffic stop, and in conversing with the defendant made the following observations: the defendant smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot glossy eyes, and appeared confused or nonresponsive to her questions. The defendant stated he could not remember where he was coming from, whether he had anything to drink, and if he did, when he started and stopped as well as how much he consumed. When asked to exit the vehicle, the defendant had difficulty maintaining balance. The officer attempted to perform three field sobriety tests: the defendant failed the first two, and refused to take the third because of an alleged right ankle injury. The defendant was arrested and transported to the police department, where he refused to submit to a breathalyzer test.
The defendant was charged with OMVUI, and at trial, a podiatrist testified that the defendant suffered from a problem with his gait so as to interfere with his ability to perform field sobriety tests. However, the court was not persuaded that this affected his performance on all of the tests, and the jury returned a guilty verdict. On appeal, the defendant claimed that evidence related to the field sobriety tests was improperly admitted, and that once this evidence was eliminated from consideration, there was insufficient evidence to convict.
To be convicted of OMVUI, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated a motor vehicle on a public highway while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Evidentiary challenges are reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. Even if a trial court improperly admits evidence, the defendant must still show that the error caused harm before a judgment will be reversed. When a defendant contests the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal, the reviewing court will consider all of the evidence presented at trial.
In this case, the Appellate Court declined to discuss the merits of the defendant’s claims that evidence was improperly admitted because he failed to provide “any meaningful analysis of harm” with respect to the trial court’s rulings. Since the defendant did not give this analysis, the Court “could not conclude that the admission of the subject evidence had any bearing on the trial’s outcome.” In addition, the Court found ample evidence to support a conviction for OMVUI, noting it did not have to rely only on evidence the defendant conceded was properly admitted. Therefore, the judgment was 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.