Posts tagged with "face of the statute"

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.