Posts tagged with "insufficient evidence"

Defendant’s Actions Evidenced Bigotry and Bias Toward Homosexuals; Intimidation Conviction Upheld

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conviction for intimidation based on bigotry or bias, because the evidence established that he possessed the specific intent to intimidate or harass the victim based on actual or perceived homosexuality.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on September 12, 2005. The victim and defendant were homeless and lived in tents at a wooded campsite. That afternoon, they drank alcohol at a park with an unidentified man (man), who implied that he was homosexual. When the victim and defendant returned to the campsite, the defendant stated he did not want “fags” in their area, particularly the man. The two spent the evening drinking and got into an argument when the victim began undressing. The defendant claimed the victim must be a “fag” because “[o]nly a fag would take his clothes off in front of another man” and because he was spending time with the man.

A fight ensued, lasting at least ten minutes, when the defendant poured a bottle of vodka on the victim and tried to light him on fire. Unsuccessful in this attempt, the defendant then threatened to burn the victim with gasoline before leaving the campsite. The victim went to a local soup kitchen for help, and gave police a sworn statement about what occurred. The defendant was subsequently arrested and signed a waiver of rights before making both oral and written statements, in which he repeatedly used the word “fag.”

The Trial

A jury found the defendant guilty of attempt to commit assault in the second degree, threatening in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, intimidation based on bigotry or bias in the second degree, and disorderly conduct. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that there was insufficient evidence that he committed intimidation. He claimed that the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had “the requisite specific intent to intimidate or harass [the victim] because of [the victim’s] actual or perceived sexual orientation.”

Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-181k(a) prohibits acts in which a person specifically intends to intimidate or harass another person on the basis of actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. “Specific intent involves a ‘conscious objective to cause [a] result,’” and is often inferred from circumstantial evidence, such as a defendant’s verbal or physical conduct.

The Court’s Decision

The Appellate Court found that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably conclude that the defendant possessed the required specific intent to violate § 53a-181k(a). Based on his oral and written statements, the jury could infer a bias toward homosexuals as well as his question as to whether the victim was homosexual as well. He stated he did not want homosexuals at the campsite and then accused the victim of being a “fag” before fighting him.

In addition, the defendant attempted to set the victim on fire, and threatened a second attempt to do so. Therefore, “the jury could have inferred that the defendant acted with intent to harass or to intimidate [the victim] because of his actual or perceived sexual orientation.” Thus, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of assault, threatening, or intimidation, 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.

Defendant’s Narcotics Conviction Upheld: Breakdown of Agreement Did Not Terminate Conspiracy

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s narcotics conspiracy conviction, noting that a failed agreement did not end the conspiracy.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on April 15, 2009. Police officers participated in a Drug Enforcement Agency task force conducting narcotics surveillance. They observed the defendant engaging in drug-related activity over an extended period of time. He was talking on his cell phone, and soon thereafter an Acura pulled up nearby and flashed its lights. The defendant walked over to the vehicle and talked to the driver for a few minutes before the car took off.

Officers approached the defendant to effectuate an arrest, but he resisted and tried to run from the scene. However, officers subdued him and placed him under arrest. After being read his Miranda rights, the defendant told police that the driver of the Acura had come to “resupply” him with crack cocaine, a plan that fell through. He helped police locate the supplier, who they detained as well.

The defendant faced numerous charges, but was only convicted of conspiracy to sell narcotics by a person who is not drug-dependent and interfering with an officer. On appeal, he argued that the police provided insufficient evidence that an agreement existed between him and the driver and an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was taken by either party.

Conviction Upheld

In this case, the State had the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant “(1) with intent that conduct constituting a crime be performed, (2) agreed with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of such conduct, and (3) any one of them committed an overt act in pursuance of such conspiracy.” Because a written agreement almost never exists, the existence of a conspiracy may be inferred by the conduct of the defendant. Here, the defendant’s interaction with the driver in conjunction with his own statement about being resupplied established the requisite intent for conspiracy.

An overt act need not be performed by the defendant only, but by any of the coconspirators. The act doesn’t need to be “a criminal act in and of itself” to qualify. In this case, the Appellate Court found that:

[T]he finder of fact reasonably could have concluded that [the coconspirator’s] drive to [the defendant’s location], his subsequent flashing of the Acura’s lights, the defendant’s walk to the Acura, and any discussion following between the defendant and [the coconspirator] were all overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy.

That the agreement itself failed to materialize was not relevant. As the Court explained, “a breakdown of an agreement does not end the conspiracy” and is not a recognized defense. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge for possession or distribution of controlled substances, 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 203-211-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Defendant’s Refusal to Provide Identification and Flight From Scene Constituted Interference With An Officer

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, the Supreme Court of Connecticut reversed an Appellate Court’s conclusion that the State provided insufficient evidence that the defendant committed officer interference in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-167a.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on June 22, 2003. The defendant’s brother was involved in an automobile accident in Bridgeport. As the defendant drove by, she operated her vehicle in an erratic manner and pulled into a nearby parking lot. Officers told the defendant they were issuing her an infraction ticket and repeatedly asked for her license, registration, and insurance. The defendant refused and began swearing at the officers, stating they would not stop her from bringing her brother to the hospital.

Because the defendant was becoming loud and belligerent, officers decided to arrest her. However, the defendant’s mother was present and interrupted, stating her daughter did nothing wrong. With the officers’ attention drawn away, the defendant ran into the road, got into a vehicle, and drove away, despite orders not to leave the scene. The defendant’s mother spoke to the defendant via cell phone, who indicated she would return after bringing her brother to the hospital. However, the defendant did not return, so officers proceeded to the hospital, where they located and arrested her.

The Charges

The defendant was charged with two counts of interfering with a peace officer, among other charges. One count involved her statements and refusal to provide identification when asked, and the second count was for leaving the scene despite an order to remain.

Following conviction, the Appellate Court reversed, citing insufficient evidence to convict under either count. It reasoned that because another statute, § 14-217, specifically punished a driver’s refusal to provide identification to an officer upon request, the legislature must not have intended to punish such conduct under § 53a-167a because it was not expressly prohibited. The Appellate Court also found that the defendant did not “intentionally [seek] to delay the officer’s efforts to issue her an infraction” when she left the scene to bring her brother to the hospital.

The State’s Appeal

On appeal, the State argued there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant on the first count because she refused to provide identification. The Supreme Court agreed, citing a decision in which it ruled that “the legislature intended to prohibit any act which would amount to meddling in or hampering the activities of the police in the performance of their duties.” Because the statute was intentionally broad in scope, it was unreasonable to argue that § 53a-167a did not include the defendant’s refusal just because it was not listed. Therefore, it was improper for the Appellate Court to rule that there was insufficient evidence to support conviction.

The State also argued that there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant under the second count because she left the scene against officer instructions to remain, and the Supreme Court agreed. The defendant knew officers were attempting to issue an infraction ticket; she refused to provide requested documents; when officers turned their attention to the other, she fled the scene; and officers specifically ordered her not to leave, which she ignored.

As such, officers were unable to immediately effectuate an arrest. Based on this evidence, a jury could reasonably conclude that “the defendant intended to hinder and obstruct the police in the performance of their duties.” Therefore, the Appellate Court erred in its reversal, and the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

When faced with a charge of interfering with an officer, 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.

By Purposefully Driving At Officer on Foot, Defendant Took “Substantial Step” to Commit Assault

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conviction for attempt to commit assault in the first degree, following an incident where he attempted to hit an officer with his vehicle.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on March 16, 2006. A police cruiser pursued the operator of a motor vehicle into a fenced-in construction site after he sped off during a valid traffic stop. Two foot patrol officers, C and H, assisted and made their way to a closed gate on the other side of the property. With weapons drawn, the officers repeatedly yelled at the operator, later identified as the defendant, to stop.

The defendant flashed his high beams at the officers and drove his vehicle into the fence, which in turn struck C, who “flew in the air and landed in the street.” The fence did not break, and the defendant once again drove at it. H realized that if the defendant continued on this path, C, who was lying motionless in the street, would be run over. H fired four shots at the defendant’s car, which turned and drove directly toward him. H managed to get out of the way of the car, which instead made contact with H’s service weapon.

The Charges

The defendant was subsequently arrested, charged with, and convicted of assault of a peace officer, attempt to commit assault in the first degree, and attempt to commit assault of a peace officer, among other charges. On appeal, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence “to prove that he intended to cause serious physical injury to [H] or that he took a substantial step to commit the crime.”

To be convicted of attempt to commit assault in the first degree, the State must prove “intentional conduct constituting a substantial step toward intentionally causing the victim serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument.” Unless a defendant confesses, circumstantial evidence is frequently used to infer intent to commit a crime. As the Appellate Court previously explained:

Intent may be gleaned from circumstantial evidence such as the type of weapon used, the manner in which it was used, the type of wound inflicted and the events leading up to and immediately following the incident. … [I]t is a permissible… inference that a defendant intended the natural consequences of his conduct.

The Defendant’s Argument

The defendant claimed that he simply intended to elude police, but the Court was not persuaded. “The existence of an intent to escape does not necessarily negate the existence of an intent to cause serious physical injury when making the escape.” Instead, the Court held that a jury could reasonably find that intent to injury H was established: the defendant knew of the officers’ location, because they were repeatedly yelling at him; he flashed his high beams at them; he struck C with his car; and he purposefully turned his vehicle toward H on his second attempt to escape.

In addition, the defendant argued that the State failed to prove that he took a substantial step to commit a first-degree assault. “To constitute a substantial step, the conduct must be strongly corroborative of the actor’s criminal purpose.” The defendant stated that he merely brushed H’s service weapon, which was simply not enough. The Appellate Court disagreed, writing that simply because H dodged the oncoming vehicle did not mean that there was insufficient showing the defendant intended to inflict serious physical injury. “An attempt is complete and punishable, when an act is done with intent to commit the crime… whether the purpose fails by reason of interruption… or for other extrinsic cause.”

Thus, in this case, the jury could reasonably conclude that the defendant’s actions “constituted a substantial step that strongly corroborated the defendant’s criminal purpose.” Therefore, this aspect of the defendant’s appeal failed.

When faced with a charge of assault or attempt, 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.

Arson Convict Loses His Appeal: Evidence Pointed to Intent to Destroy Building in Suicide Attempt

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut declined to reverse a defendant’s arson convictions, finding sufficient evidence to establish the essential elements of the crime.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on October 13, 2006. Police responded to the multi-resident apartment building where the defendant lived, following a report that the defendant was threatening to commit suicide. After they arrived, another resident was seen leaving the building because she was “nervous” about the defendant’s conduct. Officers were unsuccessful in communicating with the defendant, who refused to speak with them.

Smoke soon appeared in the building, and though the defendant climbed onto the fire escape, he reentered the building when officers asked him to come down. The fire intensified but responders could not enter the building because they feared for their safety in light of the defendant’s behavior. The defendant fell from a third-story window and was apprehended with effort, and firefighters promptly attempted to suppress the fire.

However, a portion of the roof collapsed and they had to exit the building. The fire was eventually put out but nonetheless caused severe structural damage. The fire marshal did not find an accidental cause for the fire and placed its origin in the defendant’s apartment, but was not definitive on the cause.

Intent Inferred

The defendant was charged with and convicted of two counts of arson in the first degree (under different subsections to address risk of injury to other occupants and the firefighters) and interfering with an officer. On appeal, the defendant argued that the State provided insufficient evidence that he “intentionally started the fire,… specifically intended to destroy or damage the building and… had reason to believe that the building was or may have been occupied or inhabited at the time the fire started.”

Intent is often inferred from circumstantial evidence where direct evidence is lacking. In arson cases, it is permissible to use the lack of evidence that the fire was caused accidentally, in light of other evidence bearing on intent, to infer that the fire was instead intentionally started.

In this case, the Appellate Court cited numerous pieces of circumstantial evidence supporting the jury’s findings: the origin of the fire, the fire marshal’s conclusions, the defendant’s destructive emotional instability, and the fact that no one else left the building after the fire began other than the defendant. Therefore, a jury could reasonably infer that the defendant intended to start the fire.

Court Rejects Defendant’s Claims

The defendant next argued that his conduct “indicated recklessness or indifference to the damage [the fire] would cause, not specific intent to damage or destroy the building.” However, the Appellate Court was not persuaded, arguing that even if suicide was the primary goal, the jury could reasonably infer that “he intended to damage the building as a means to that goal.” Therefore, as with the previous argument posed by the defendant, this one equally failed.

Finally, the defendant claimed he had no reason to believe anyone else was in the building at the time he started the fire. However, the evidence worked against him: another resident left the building shortly before it was started. At trial, this individual testified that she typically stays home during the daytime. In addition, another resident’s vehicle was located on the scene. Therefore, a jury could reasonably have inferred that “the defendant had reason to believe that one or more tenants may have been in the building during the incident.” Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

When faced with a charge of arson, 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.

Deli Robber’s Conviction Upheld, as State Presented Sufficient Evidence to Establish Requisite Guilt

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut held that the State presented sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of charges arising from the robbery of a deli.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on February 26, 2005. The defendant wore a half mask as he entered a deli, pulled a handgun from his jacket pocket, and pointed it at the cashier while demanding money. When the cashier went to get his wallet from his coat, located behind a glass deli case, the defendant fired at him twice. Both shots missed, and the defendant escaped with a paltry $38 cash.

One month after the robbery, police presented a photographic array to the cashier, who chose the defendant but needed a recently-taken picture to be sure. Four days later, a newspaper article with a more recent picture of the defendant appeared, linking him with another robbery. The cashier promptly called police and stated the man in the newspaper photograph (the defendant) was the same man who robbed him at the deli, then made a positive identification (ID) of the defendant in a second photographic array. However, the gun used to perpetrate this crime was never recovered.

Sufficient Evidence For Robbery, Larceny, and Attempt to Commit Assault Found

The defendant was charged with a convicted of robbery in the first degree, larceny in the sixth degree, attempt to commit assault in the first degree, and carrying a pistol without a permit. On appeal, he argued that the State presented insufficient evidence identifying him as the robber. The defendant claimed that the cashier’s ID was unreliable because the perpetrator wore a mask. He cited the cashier’s initial inability to positively identify the defendant in the first photographic array and the passage of time between the incident and the second photographic array.

The Appellate Court was not convinced, citing a plethora of trial evidence upon which the jury could reasonably conclude the defendant as the robber. The cashier saw the defendant for an extended period of time in a brightly lit area at close proximity. According to testimony, the mask itself was particularly thin, allowing the cashier to see features through it, and was only a half mask, which does not cover one’s mouth, nose, forehead, eyes, and sections of hair.

Finally, in contrast to the defendant’s assertion, the cashier was “100 percent sure that the defendant was the [perpetrator]” and made an in-court identification during trial. It was up to the jury, as the arbiter of credibility, to decide what testimony to believe. Thus, this aspect of the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim failed.

Sufficient Evidence for Carrying a Pistol without a Permit Found

In Connecticut, a person may not carry a pistol or revolver outside of their home or place of business without a permit to do so. A pistol or revolver that falls under this statute must have a barrel length of less than twelve inches. Without the gun itself presented into evidence, the defendant argued that the State did not sufficiently establish the length of the barrel on the firearm used in the robbery. As such, a conviction for this charge was improper.

Police recovered two spent .45 caliber shell casings and two spent bullets, the latter located behind the deli case. At trial, State experts testified that only a handful of companies create the weapons that can fire this ammunition, and “none… manufactured firearms with a barrel length of more than twelve inches capable of discharging the kind of spent casings and bullets found at the scene of the robbery.”

In addition, the cashier provided testimony that the firearm was pulled from a jacket pocket and held with just one hand, facts from which inferences are permitted that would suggest the barrel is only twelve inches or less in length. Therefore, the Appellate Court found that the jury could reasonably infer that all elements of the carrying without a permit charge were supported by sufficient evidence.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, robbery, or attempt, 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.

Captured Fugitive Could Not “Reap the Benefit” of His Status When Appealing Burglary Conviction

Supreme Court of Connecticut: Criminal Law Matter

In a criminal law matter, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the fugitive felon disentitlement doctrine applies not just to fugitives in flight, but also those who are arrested prior to filing their appeals.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on April 27, 1999. The victim arrived at his workplace and discovered the unauthorized presence of the defendant, who immediately ran off. Police found that two computers were unplugged with their keyboards in the garbage. The defendant was charged and convicted of burglary in the third degree and attempt to commit larceny in the first degree.

However, prior to sentencing in December 2000, the defendant posted bond and fled to England, though he was rearrested and extradited to Connecticut. He once more posted bond and fled the country prior to his second sentencing date, was rearrested, and finally sentenced in November 2008. The defendant appealed his conviction, in part claiming insufficient evidence to convict for attempted larceny. However, the State argued that the defendant’s appeal should be wholesale dismissed because of the fugitive felon disentitlement doctrine.

Court’s Authority

The doctrine of fugitive felon disentitlement gives the court authority to dismiss a fugitive defendant’s appeal under certain circumstances. It is not accepted in all U.S. jurisdictions, and Connecticut has only addressed the doctrine in three cases where the fugitive filed his appeal while still on the run. Therefore, the Supreme Court set to the task of determining whether the doctrine applied to a fugitive who filed an appeal after being arrested, and if so, the scope of its application.

There are several rationales for the doctrine, only one of which applied in this context: “the promotion and protection of the dignified and efficient operation of the appellate system.” Courts want to ensure that defendants do not game the system through their fugitive status “by gaining unfair advantages due to the passage of time at the expense of the integrity of the appellate process.” In this case, the Supreme Court held that a fugitive’s post-arrest appeal may be dismissed if his conduct undermined the appellate process.

Thus, if the State seeks to assert the doctrine, it must show specific instances of prejudice caused by the fugitive’s flight, such as the loss of evidence or witness-related issues. If the State meets this burden, it is then shifted to the defendant, who must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that his flight was not prejudicial.

Court Decision

The Supreme Court found that in this case the State alleged sufficient evidence that the defendant could not rebut. “The appellate process has been prejudiced by the loss of trial exhibits and by the effect that the passage of time has had on the availability and reliability of witnesses.” Therefore, all of the defendant’s claims on appeal, including insufficiency of the evidence, were not reviewable because the doctrine applied.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, or attempt, 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.

Perpetrator Not “Beamed There By Martians” – Court Upholds Defendant’s Accessory Conviction

Appellate Court of Connecticut: Criminal Law Matter

In a criminal law matter involving a defendant’s accessory conviction, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s claim that the State presented insufficient evidence that she participated in a plot to steal nearly a quarter of a million dollars from her employer.

This case involved the February 22, 2005 theft of approximately $248,000 in cash from a bank located in New Britain. The interior of the location has little public access, and employees must first be buzzed into or use their key to access a “mantrap” before proceeding through another door to the employee area. This section of the store contains a bathroom and the safe room, and the only exit is to proceed back through the mantrap.

Case Details

The defendant was a store manager at the bank and was working alone for five and a half hours prior to closing. An hour before leaving the store, she received a phone call from a former district manager (former manager), who had been fired following a previous unsolved robbery at the bank years earlier.

The defendant counted the money in the safe, after which she closed down the store and set the alarm. Approximately thirty minutes later, motion sensors and alarms were rapidly triggered in reverse order from the safe room to the front door. The bank owners called the defendant, who was in the vicinity of the bank, and asked her to allow police into the building. When police arrived, they found no evidence of forced entry, but the money was gone and the defendant did not look or act surprised.

Telephone records revealed that the phone call received by the defendant prior to closing the bank was made from a cell phone in New Britain. She received two more calls from numbers belonging to the former manager: the first from a landline in Manhattan only minutes after the incident; the second twenty minutes thereafter once again from the cell phone, this time placed from the New Haven area.

Arrest Details

The defendant was subsequently arrested for accessory to larceny in the first degree, conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree, and accessory to burglary in the third degree, in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-8, 53a-122(a)(2), 53a-48, and 53a-103. The State’s theory of the case was that the defendant knowingly permitted someone to stay behind in the employee area prior to her departure. The defendant argued that one of the employees working earlier that day “could have let someone into the bathroom unbeknownst to [her].” The prosecutor countered that this was unreasonable:

“The idea of somebody sitting in this bathroom for five and one-half hours, waiting for business to close, is as ludicrous as saying that they were beamed there by Martians.”

The defendant was convicted on all counts and appealed, arguing that the State presented insufficient evidence identifying her as a participant, and therefore the jury convicted her “on the basis of mere speculation.”

Jury Details

When a jury considers the facts presented in a case, they are permitted to make reasonable and rational inferences stemming from those facts. “When we infer, we derive a conclusion from proven facts because such considerations as experience, or history, or science have demonstrated that there is a likely correlation between those facts and the conclusion.”

The more strained the correlation, the less reasonable the inference will be. In this case, the Appellate Court admitted that the evidence presented was scant, but still sufficient to support the convictions. The jury could reasonably infer that the defendant was knowingly involved in the scheme to steal the money from the bank, permitting someone to remain behind after she set the alarm and left for the night. Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or accessory, 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.

Trial Court Did Not Err in Rejecting Irrelevant Evidence; Appellate Court Upholds Conviction

Appellate Court of Connecticut

In a criminal law matter involving irrelevant evidence, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s convictions following a traffic stop that revealed reckless driving.

Case Details

This case arose from an incident that occurred on March 14, 2006. Bethel police initiated a traffic stop to investigate the defendant’s dump truck and trailer for properly displayed plates. The plates were present but obscured, and officers immediately noticed a wire hanging from the rear of the trailer. Upon further inspection of the trailer, officers determined that the wire was disconnected, from the trailer’s independent braking system.

Furthermore, it did not appear to be connected to the dump truck or “any other source that could have provided power to the trailer’s brakes.” Officers requested that the defendant demonstrate whether or not the trailer’s brakes operated, but the defendant refused to comply. Officers cited the defendant for reckless driving, driving with obscured license plates, and failing to carry a valid insurance card. Upon the arrival of a tow truck, the defendant relinquished his keys and stated to the tow-truck driver, “There’s still no brakes [on the trailer] with you towing it.”

The Defendant’s Motion

The defendant submitted a motion seeking to introduce Connecticut statutes and agency regulations as evidence that the officers lacked authority to inspect his trailer’s brakes. He also proffered evidence that “demonstrated a sense of bias against the defendant among [other] officers that had filtered throughout the Bethel police department and affected the credibility of the officers who were at the scene and who testified during the state’s case-in-chief.” The trial court denied the motion, saying the evidence was irrelevant. Subsequently, the defendant was convicted of the three cited charges as well as interfering with an officer. He appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion.

Connecticut Police Officers

In Connecticut, police officers have the duty to enforce our laws and preserve the peace. “If [an officer] is acting under a good faith belief that he is carrying out that duty, and if his actions are reasonably designed to that end, he is acting in the performance of his duties.” Quite notably, such duties are not merely restricted to the arrest function. In this case, the Appellate Court reviewed the statutes and regulations offered by the defendant but was not persuaded that the officers did not have authority to inspect the brakes on his trailer. Therefore, it concluded that preclusion of this evidence was not an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

Importance of Evidence 

Evidence is relevant if it makes the existence of a material fact more or less probable, so long as it is neither unduly prejudicial nor cumulative. However, it is the duty of the proffering party to establish relevance with a proper foundation. In the context of impeachment evidence, this may be accomplished in one of three ways: an offer of proof, independent establishment by the record itself, or statement of good faith believe that the inquiry is justified by an adequate factual basis.

In this case, the defendant failed to provide any connection between evidence of bias and the lack of credibility of the officers involved in this case. Rather, his claims were purely speculative, and “[i]t is entirely proper for a court to deny a request to present certain testimony that will further nothing more than a fishing expedition… or result in a wild goose chase.” Therefore, the judgments were affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.

Larceny Convictions Reversed Where State Provided Insufficient Evidence of Property’s Value

Appellate Court of Connecticut

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut reversed a defendant’s larceny-related convictions, agreeing that the State did not provide sufficient evidence to convict.

This case first arose from an incident that occurred on January 26, 2004. Police responded to a Cumberland Farms store that was broken into. They located a hole cut into the roof, as well as the store safe partially broken into: $446 was taken from the bottom drawer, but the top drawer was undisturbed. In addition, an ATM with $7,500 showed signs of an unsuccessful break-in. Police found burglar’s tools, a piece of paper with the defendant’s shoe print on it, as well as knit caps and a bandana.

Case Details

On February 29, 2004, police in a neighboring town responded to an alarm at a liquor store. When they arrived, they spotted a Nissan Altima speeding away. However, an officer permitted the vehicle to leave because his partner did not confirm whether or not a crime had been committed.

An investigation revealed a tampered alarm box as well as a hole cut through the roof, burglar’s tools, and a red knit cap. The suspected burglary was immediately reported, and officers pursued the Nissan Altima, which crossed into Massachusetts. Nonetheless, the vehicle was stopped and four men, including the defendant, were brought to state police barracks. There, a Connecticut state trooper seized the men’s clothing, including the sneakers the defendant was wearing.

The defendant was subsequently arrested and faced numerous charges, including attempt to commit larceny in the first degree and conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree. At trial, the State presented evidence showing the amounts of money within the ATM and bottom drawer of the safe, totaling $7,946. In addition, a Cumberland Farms employee testified that the top draw had “a fair amount” of money within. However, the State did not present evidence that this “fair amount” exceeded $2,054, or that any other potential source of money was accessible to the defendant.

Nonetheless, the defendant was convicted following a jury trial and he appealed. He argued that the State presented insufficient evidence of the larceny charges because they did not prove that he “attempted to take, or conspired to take, property in excess of $10,000.” Therefore, he sought acquittal on these charges. The State countered that the proper course of action is conviction for second-degree larceny, which they argued was a lesser included offense.

Connecticut General Statute (CGS) § 53a-119

Under Connecticut General Statute (CGS) § 53a-119, larceny is defined in the following manner: “A person commits larceny when, with the intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds such property from an owner.”

First-degree larceny is committed when the value of the property exceeds $10,000, while second-degree has a lower threshold value of $5,000. Conspiracy to commit larceny requires a showing of intent to deprive another’s property, plus wrongful conspired or attempted taking of such property. The Appellate Court of Connecticut has authority to simultaneously reverse convictions order entries of judgment for lesser-included offenses.

Court Decision 

In this case, the Appellate Court was persuaded by the defendant’s sufficiency of the evidence claim. It disagreed with the State that the jury reasonably inferred that a “fair amount” of money located in the top drawer exceeded $2,054, thus bringing the total value to $10,000 as required for first-degree larceny.

The Court further held that acquittal was the proper remedy. It explained, “Although it is true that there was evidence from which the jury might have concluded that the value of the property exceeded $5000, we do not know what evidence the jury accepted and what it rejected or how it reached the conclusion it did reach.” The Court would not speculate, and therefore reversed conviction on these counts with the direction to the lower court to enter findings of not guilty.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of larceny or conspiracy to commit 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.