Posts tagged with "insufficient evidence"

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

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.

State Presented Sufficient Evidence that Defendant “Intended to Convert the Property to His Use Without Paying For It”

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the defendant’s conviction for sixth-degree larceny, as he had the requisite intent to commit the crime.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on May 5, 2005. The defendant purchased a foam poster board from Staples in Fairfield, but as he was exiting the main store into the foyer, he was not carrying it. Instead, he was observed scooting a box with an item he did not pay for along the floor beneath the theft detection sensors located adjacent to the exit doors. The defendant scooped it up and proceeded outside, with store employees in pursuit. When one yelled at him to “drop the box,” the defendant placed it on a nearby dolly and quickly left the area. Inside the box was “a Uniden telephone, in its original packaging, that was offered for sale” at the store.

Another Staples customer observed the defendant getting into a vehicle and driving off. She informed the store manager, who wrote down the license plate and called police. Officers identified the owner as the defendant’s girlfriend and proceeded to her residence, where they located the car (which had signs of recent use) but not the defendant. Soon thereafter, the defendant turned himself in and provided police with a signed written statement in which he accepted responsibility for his actions.

Sixth Degree Larceny

The defendant was charged with larceny in the sixth degree by shoplifting, and for being a persistent larceny offender. At trial, the defendant testified that he came across the box inside the store and immediately returned it to a sales associate. He denied leaving the store with the box or having knowledge of its contents, and stated he never intended to leave the store without paying for it.

The sales associate and store manager provided a much different version of the events. The jury returned a guilty verdict on the larceny count, and the defendant pled guilty to the second, resulting in three years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant contended that the State provided insufficient evidence that he had the requisite intent to commit larceny.

Under Connecticut General Statute (CGS) § 53a-119, “[a] person commits larceny when, with the intent to [permanently] 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.” Larceny is considered a specific intent crime, so the State must provide direct or circumstantial evidence (most often the latter) that the defendant possessed a “subjective desire or knowledge that his actions constituted stealing” at the time of the crime.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that the defendant confused sufficiency and credibility issues. He appeared to argue that all of the testimony was identical. However, this is an inaccurate reading of the trial court record, for there were vast discrepancies between the testimonies given by the defendant and State’s witnesses. It is the province of the jury to weigh the credibility of witness testimony and believe all of it, some of it, or none of it.

Thus, the jury was within its right to credit the testimony of the State witnesses, and such testimony, along with the defendant’s written statement, provided sufficient evidence that the defendant intended to take the phone without paying for it.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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

Where Defense Counsel Invited Error, He Could Not Then Demand a Mistrial

In the article “Jury Could Reasonably Infer That Defendant Withheld Fact She Participated in Robbery In Order To Receive State Benefits,” the defendant did not succeed in her claim that the State presented insufficient evidence to convict her of fraudulent receipt of worker’s compensation benefits. In her appeal, she additionally argued that because an officer improperly referenced the defendant’s request for counsel during his testimony, the court should have declared a mistrial but failed to do so.

During cross-examination, defense counsel pressed the officer regarding whether he had taken a statement from the defendant following the robbery, asking variants of the same question. The officer consistently stated he did not take a statement, and upon repeat questioning, clarified that he had not done so because the defendant asked for an attorney. Defense counsel did not object to this testimony, and it was the judge who pointed out, outside the presence of the jury, the potential constitutional issue of referencing the counsel request.

At this point, defense counsel made an oral motion for a mistrial, arguing that the statement was improper and non-responsive. The court denied the motion, finding that the officer’s testimony was “sort of responsive,” and instead instructed the jury to disregard the officer’s testimony about the defendant’s request for counsel.

Motion for a Mistrial

Declaring a mistrial is an extreme measure granted in very few situations, such as prejudice undermining the right to a fair trial. If the court can implement a curative action to counter the prejudice, oftentimes through a jury instruction, this is the preferred course of action. It is within the trial court’s discretion to grant or deny a motion for a mistrial, and the defendant “bears the burden of establishing that there was irreparable prejudice to the defendant’s case such that it denied him a fair trial.”

However, if the error claimed by the defendant resulted from questioning on his part during cross-examination, “[s]o long as the answer is clearly responsive to the question asked, the questioner may not later secure a reversal on the basis of any invited error.”

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that defense counsel invited the error. By repeatedly asking the officer whether he had taken a statement from the defendant, despite consistent negative answers, defense counsel “opened the door for [the officer] to explain why there was no statement.”

In addition, the defendant failed to show how she was denied a fair trial. The judge gave a curative instruction to disregard the statement, and “[a]bsent evidence to the contrary, we presume that the jury followed the court’s limiting instruction.” The Court further noted the strength of circumstantial evidence against the defendant. Therefore, this argument on appeal was rejected as well, and the judgment affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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

Despite Inconsistent Witness Statements, Other Evidence Established That Defendant Committed Assault

In an opinion issued earlier last year, the Appellate Court of Connecticut upheld a defendant’s conviction for first-degree assault, citing sufficient evidence identifying him as the perpetrator.

Case Background

The case arose from an incident that occurred on February 7, 2008. The victim was employed at a market in the neighborhood in which the defendant, a frequent customer known as Espana, lived. The defendant entered the store and asked the victim for money, which was promptly given away to other customers. When asked for more the victim refused, and the defendant stated “you’re going to see what’s going to happen” before leaving the store. That night, as the victim and a coworker, W, were emptying garbage outside the store, the defendant stabbed the victim twice and ran off. Despite profuse bleeding, the victim went inside and told another employee, F, that Espana stabbed him.

Police responded, but the victim told them that two black men assaulted him. W initially conveyed he saw nothing because “he was nervous and so did not tell the police everything he had witnessed that night.” In addition, F had problems conveying to officers what the victim stated, since none of the officers were fluent in Spanish. The victim underwent emergency surgery and survived his injuries, though he was hospitalized for five weeks. Eight days later, the defendant returned to the store while intoxicated, threatened W, and told both F and W that he stabbed the victim. Police were called to the scene, where they arrested the defendant and charged him with several crimes, including assault in the first degree.

The Trial

On March 19, 2008, the victim was released from the hospital and went to the police station to give a statement. He identified the defendant as his attacker, and selected the defendant’s photograph from an array of eight photographs. The victim explained that he was not initially forthcoming because he was not a U.S. citizen and used a false identity, but he became concerned when “[the defendant] went back looking for me saying that he was going to finish what he started.” At trial, the victim, F, and W all made in-court identifications of the defendant as the perpetrator, as well as testified to that fact.

The defendant was convicted and received a lengthy sentence but appealed, arguing that the State presented insufficient evidence that he was the person who assaulted the victim. He pointed to the series of inconsistent statements: “[I]n speaking to police on the night of the attack, [the victim] did not identify the defendant as the attacker, [W] denied witnessing the attack and [F] denied knowing who had stabbed [the victim].”

The Court’s Decision

Under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-59(a)(1), an individual commits first-degree assault “when… [w]ith the intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.” In this case, the Appellate Court determined that the jury could reasonably conclude that the defendant was the perpetrator, despite the apparent inconsistent statements. This went to witness credibility rather than sufficiency of the evidence, and “[i]t is the [jury’s] exclusive province to weigh the conflicting evidence and to determine the credibility of witnesses.”

In addition, the Court pointed to other evidence on the record that, taken together, met the State’s burden: the in-court identifications, the victim’s written statement to police, the victim’s identification of the defendant as the perpetrator, the selection of the defendant’s picture in the photographic array, and the defendant’s oral confession a week after the incident. Thus, the Court held that it was reasonable for the jury to conclude that “the cumulative force of this evidence established the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” After addressing an additional matter on appeal, the judgment was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of assault or battery, 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 Refusal to Comply with Officer’s Legitimate Identification Request Constituted Interference with the Officer’s Duties

In a criminal law matter, the Supreme Court of Connecticut reversed the Appellate Court’s decision to vacate a criminal defendant’s conviction for interfering with a police officer, because the State provided sufficient evidence of the essential elements.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 14, 2002. The defendant had a history of trespassing on a business’ property, and an employee discovered the defendant apparently tampering with pumping equipment. The defendant urged the employee to call police, and when they responded, an officer asked the defendant to identify himself. Immediately, the defendant failed to do so, claiming that “he did not need to produce identification, that he was on public property and that ‘this isn’t Russia. I’m not showing you any [identification].’”

The defendant was arrested and subsequently convicted of interfering with a police officer in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-167a, as well as other charges. When asked how the State provided sufficient evidence, the court responded that police were “acting within the scope of their duties in investigating the defendant’s alleged trespass,” and the defendant knew why he was being asked for identification.

Insufficient Evidence

On appeal, the defendant argued that the State provided insufficient evidence that he hindered the investigation by failing to promptly identify himself, and that his conduct was outside the scope of § 53a-167a. The State countered that the statute prohibits both verbal and nonverbal conduct calculated to interfere with the completion of an officer’s duties. In addition, the State contended that “a refusal to comply with a legitimate police request is equivalent to interfering with an officer,” thus there was sufficient evidence to convict.

The Appellate Court agreed with the defendant and overturned his conviction. The State appealed this ruling, arguing that where a police officer makes “a legitimate investigatory stop under Terry, the person subject to the Terry stop must honor the officer’s reasonable demand for identification.” It stated that in this case, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the defendant was engaged or had engaged in criminal activity, and his refusal to promptly identify himself “provided a sufficient factual basis for the defendant’s conviction.”

Interfering with a Police Officer

Upon review of the statute, the Supreme Court noted that the words used are broad in scope, indicating that the legislature “intended to prohibit any act which would amount to meddling in or hampering the activities of police in the performance of their duties.” The Court agreed with the State that a refusal to provide identification in conjunction with a Terry stop “may hamper or impede a police investigation into apparent criminal activity,” regardless of whether the offending conduct is active, passive, aggressive, or peaceable.

The Court explained that because § 53a-167a was drafted in such a way as “to encompass a wide range of conduct,” it is unreasonable to determine that because the legislature did not explicitly include refusals to identification requests, such conduct is exempt.

The Court’s Decision

In order to effectuate an investigation, it is only natural that officers ask questions, and “questions concerning a suspect’s identity are a routine and accepted part of many Terry stops.” The government has several legitimate interests in ascertaining a suspect’s identity, and “[t]he request for identity has an immediate relation to the purpose, rationale, and practical demands of a Terry stop.” The Supreme Court agreed with the State that the defendant’s conduct fell within the purview of § 53a-167a, and was left to determine whether the elements of the offense were satisfied: namely, whether the defendant intentionally hindered the investigation.

The Court agreed that there was sufficient evidence to convict: the defendant’s refusal delayed the police investigation “to [an] appreciable degree.” The delay need not be substantial. In addition, the defendant knew why the police were present, and his refusal “reflected an intent by the defendant to hinder, delay or impede the police.” Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment with respect to this charge and remanded the case to affirm the judgment of conviction.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of interfering with a police 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.

Warrantless Search of Defendant’s Vehicle Upheld; Probable Cause Established by Drug-Related Items Found on His Person

In a case, a criminal defendant failed in persuading the Supreme Court of Connecticut that the State provided insufficient evidence that he constructively possessed crack cocaine and marijuana found in the car he was driving. In his appeal, he also argued that the search itself was improper and all evidence collected derived from it should have been excluded.

At trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing that the officers conducted a warrantless search of his vehicle in violation of the state and federal constitutions. This motion was denied, because the trial court determined that the search was a valid search incident to a lawful arrest.

Protections Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures

Under state and federal law, individuals are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, houses, papers, and effects. A search conducted without a warrant evidencing probable cause is per se unreasonable, and evidence derived from this illegal search will be excluded unless one of very few exceptions apply.

This includes the automobile exception, which permits officers to search a vehicle without a warrant where “the searching officer[s] have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband” or other objects that would be subject to seizure and destruction. There are two primary justifications underlying this exception: the ability of a car to move (thus creating exigent circumstances) and the diminished expectation of privacy afforded to automobiles.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, officers saw the defendant drop wax folds containing what appeared to be heroin and later swallow them. As such, they had probable cause “to believe that additional contraband would be found in the car [the defendant] had been driving.” This determination was bolstered by the fact that officers found rolling papers and $550 in cash directly on the defendant. After dispensing of alternative grounds regarding the legality of the search, the Supreme Court held that the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.

State’s High Court Finds Drug Offense Convictions Proper Where Defendant Constructively Possessed Narcotics and Cannabis in His Wife’s Car

In a criminal law matter, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held, in part, that the State presented sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of drug possession charges under the theory of constructive possession.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on September 18, 2007. Narcotics officers initiated a valid traffic stop of the defendant, who was driving his wife’s vehicle with a friend in the passenger seat. The defendant avoided answering questions and “began nervously placing his hands inside his sweatshirt pockets and under his clothing.” The officer became concerned for his safety and ordered the defendant to keep his hands visible, but the defendant refused and a physical altercation ensued. During the struggle, a white package fell from the defendant’s pocket to the ground. It contained five wax folds that held a white powdery substance consistent with heroin.

The defendant was placed under arrest, and a subsequent search of his person revealed rolling papers and $552 in cash. While being brought to the patrol car, the defendant twisted out of the officers’ grip, lunged for the package and swallowed it, then “laughed at the officers and said, ‘gotcha.’” After both the defendant and his friend were placed in the cruisers, a search of the vehicle revealed two bags of crack cocaine and three bags of marijuana located in the center console.

Nonexclusive Possession of Narcotics

The defendant was subsequently convicted of possession of narcotics, possession of a controlled substance, interfering with an officer, and tampering with physical evidence, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 21a-179(a), 21a-279(c), 53a-167a, and 53a-155. On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the court “improperly applied the doctrine of nonexclusive possession,” resulting in insufficient evidence to convict him of the possessory offenses.

In a case where the State cannot provide direct evidence of drug ownership, they must present a theory of nonexclusive possession. In other words, to prove illegal possession, the State must establish that “the defendant knew the character of the substance, knew of its presence and exercised dominion and control over it.” This theory is most often set forth where the drugs were not located on the defendant’s body, but in other areas, such as his home or vehicle.

However, where the defendant is not in exclusive control of the premises (for example, there are other vehicle occupants), it is improper to infer that the defendant “knew of the presence of [the substances] and had control of them, unless there are other incriminating statements or circumstances tending to buttress such an inference.”

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the Supreme Court determined that the theory of nonexclusive possession was properly exercised, and a jury could have reasonably concluded that the drugs belonged to the defendant. The defendant was driving the vehicle belonging to his wife, which made it more likely that he, not the passenger, was aware of the drugs in the center console. Drugs and related items were found on his person, making it more likely the cocaine and heroin belonged to him rather than his wife or the passenger.

Finally, medical records revealed that on the day of the incident, a urinalysis revealed the presence of cocaine and opiates in his system. Therefore, there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of the possessory counts, and the judgment was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.