Posts tagged with "leaving the scene"

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

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

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 bring 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 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.

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 recent 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.

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Jury Instruction Was “Accurate,” Not Misleading: Appeals Court Affirms Evading Responsibility Judgment

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s claim that the trial court’s jury instruction regarding the elements of evasion of responsibility was misleading.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the night of July 16, 2001, in Bridgeport, CT. The defendant consumed six beers in three and a half hours before and while eating dinner. He left the restaurant in his truck and approached the same intersection as the victim, who was on a motorcycle. Without signaling, the defendant turned into the victim’s path, and despite significant effort to avoid a collision, the victim struck the back end of the truck. The victim was thrown from his motorcycle and died from his injuries. A witness observed the accident and later testified that “the truck then stopped, the defendant stepped out of the truck, looked, got back in and took off.” Police pursued the defendant, who stopped only after he was forced to by a second police cruiser. The defendant was visibly intoxicated, and blood alcohol tests produced readings of 0.172 and 0.167, over twice the legal limit.

The defendant was charged with second-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, and evading responsibility, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) §§ 53a-56(a)(1), 53a-56b(a), and 14-224(a), respectively. At trial, the defendant testified that “while he was turning left, after giving a signal, he felt an impact toward the rear of his truck, saw nothing and thought someone had hit his vehicle and driven off.” The defendant was convicted on the second two counts. He appealed his conviction, arguing, in part, that the trial court did not properly instruct the jury regarding the elements of evading responsibility. Specifically, he claimed:

1) The court misled the jury by using the word “prevent” rather than “unable” with respect to reporting requirements of CGS § 14-224(a).

2) The court improperly instructed the jury that it had to find that “some outside force caused the defendant to be unable to report the information,” rather than “the defendant’s being unable to report for any cause or reason.”

3) The court did not instruct the jury that the defendant was legally excused from the remaining statutory requirements because he was arrested while seeking assistance for the victim.

The Appellate Court was not persuaded by any of these arguments. Because the defendant did not draw a sufficient distinction between the use of “prevent” and “unable,” the court’s use of the first word was harmless. The Court reiterated that CGS § 14-224(a) does not provide any legal excuse for failing to stop. As the legislative history indicates, “failure to stop immediately cannot be cured at some later time by an operator reporting the incident to police.” As such, a reasonable jury could find that the defendant did not immediately stop and render assistance to the victim following the collision, and by leaving the scene he was not satisfying his duties under the statute. The Appellate Court found that the jury instruction, as given, was proper and did not deprive the defendant of a fair trial.

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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