Posts tagged with "#MayaLawyers"

Jury Reasonably Inferred Defendant Intended to Sell Cocaine He Constructively Possessed (PWID)

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut found that the State provided sufficient evidence to convict a defendant of possession of narcotics with intent to sell (PWID).

The Case

At 2am on October 19, 2004, a Norwalk police officer observed a vehicle near a business that reported problems with trespassing and the presence of narcotics transactions. After following this vehicle, the officer saw another one in the business’ parking lot, so he initiated a traffic stop of the second vehicle and radioed for assistance. The car had three occupants including the defendant, who was located behind the front-seat passenger. All appeared nervous, and the driver claimed the defendant was his uncle and they were there picking him up. When the officer went to run a check on the driver, the defendant changed his position to behind the driver’s seat.

After backup arrived, the officers placed the occupants under arrest for trespass. However, as the defendant exited the car, officers observed forty-three knotted bags and envelopes with cocaine, a small bag of marijuana, and $15 cash in plain view on the floor behind the front passenger seat. A search of the vehicle produced another bag of marijuana, a cell phone, and $640 in small denominations. No drugs or paraphernalia were found on the defendant, though after being transported to the police station, he provided a false name.

The Defendant’s Charges

The defendant was charged with PWID (cocaine), a violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 21a-227(a), as well as other crimes. At trial, State witnesses testified that the cocaine was packaged in a manner consistent with sales and the defendant was located in a known high drug activity area with no paraphernalia located on him indicating personal use. In addition, the presence of a cell phone and cash in small denominations is common in situations involving drug sales. At the close of State’s evidence, defense counsel moved for a judgment of acquittal, which was denied.

The jury returned guilty verdicts and the defendant renewed his motion, which was again denied. On appeal, he argued in part that the court improperly denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal because the State failed to provide sufficient evidence that he possessed the cocaine and that he intended to sell it.

To convict a defendant for PWID, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he “knew the character of the substance, knew of its presence and exercised dominion and control over it.” However, where the defendant does not have exclusive possession of the premises containing the drugs, the State must proceed on a theory of constructive possession, or possession without direct physical contact. Knowledge of the substance cannot be inferred without a showing of incriminating statements and other circumstances. Intent to sell, the second element, may be proven by the manner in which the narcotics are packaged, the defendant’s presence in a known drug trafficking area, and the absence of drug paraphernalia indicating personal use of the substance.

The Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court found that the jury could reasonably infer that the defendant constructively possessed the cocaine and intended to sell it. The Court specifically cited such behavior as the defendant’s movement in the car to distance himself from the narcotics, easy access to the narcotics, and his close proximity indicating he had knowledge of its narcotic character because “[i]t is by now common knowledge that cocaine is often packaged as a white powder in small plastic bags.”

This form of packaging, in conjunction with the defendant’s presence in a known drug trafficking area and the fact police found no drug paraphernalia on his person, allowed a jury to reasonably infer the defendant intended to sell the cocaine. Therefore, the defendant’s sufficiency of the evidence claim failed.

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.

Defendant’s Actions Evidenced Specific Intent Required for Kidnapping Charge

In an opinion issued in early 2012, the Appellate Court of Connecticut found the State met its burden of establishing that a kidnapping victim’s liberty was intentionally prevented by the defendant’s conduct.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on November 4, 2007. The defendant twice entered the victim’s residence in search of his girlfriend. On the second entry, he forced his way in, placed a handgun to the victim’s stomach, and threatened to kill her. The victim insisted the girlfriend was not present, but the defendant demanded she sit on the couch as he unsuccessfully searched the apartment for the girlfriend. Police subsequently located the defendant and placed him under arrest.

The defendant faced numerous charges, including kidnapping in the second degree with a firearm in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-94a(a). He was convicted on all counts and received a lengthy sentence. On appeal, he argued in part that the State did not meet their burden of establishing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he possessed the intent to deprive the victim of her freedom and liberty.

Establishing a Second-Degree Kidnapping Conviction

To be convicted of second-degree kidnapping with a firearm, the defendant must first abduct another person, or intend to prevent that person’s liberation. This is accomplished either through the use or threatened use of physical force or intimidation, or holding the person at a place where he is not likely to be found. Once the abduction occurs, the perpetrator “uses or is armed with and threatens the use or uses or displays or represents by his words or conduct that he possesses a pistol, revolver, machine gun, shotgun, rifle or firearm.”

Intent is often proven through circumstantial evidence: unless you are a mind reader, knowing what a person is thinking or intending at any point in time is nearly impossible. Thus, “intent may be inferred from the events leading up to, and immediately following, the conduct in question… the accused’s physical acts and the general surrounding circumstances.” The words used by a defendant may also serve as direct evidence of intent.

In this case, at the time the defendant ordered the victim to sit on the couch, there remained an “implicit threat” stemming from the previous threat against the victim’s life. Therefore, the Appellate Court concluded that the jury could reasonably “infer from the defendant’s conduct that he possessed the requisite specific intent to prevent the victim’s liberation.”

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of kidnapping or unlawful restraint, 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.

Assault Convict “A Danger to Society;” Sentence Modification Not Warranted

In a criminal law matter, the Sentence Revision Division of the Superior Court of Connecticut (Division) declined to modify a defendant’s lengthy sentence after he was convicted of first-degree assault, as it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

The Case and the Charges

In this case, the petitioner was operating a car, with a sawed off shotgun in plain view, when a marked police cruiser initiated a valid traffic stop. Two foot patrol officers were nearby and provided backup, but the petitioner sped away to a nearby, confined property. As the petitioner attempted to escape the area, he “struck one of the officers on foot with the car [causing a serious physical injury] and drove it at the other without hitting him.”

The petitioner was subsequently arrested and charged with attempted assault in the first degree, assault on a peace officer, attempted assault on a peace officer, and possession of a sawed off shotgun. He was convicted on all counts and sentenced to a total effective sentence of forty years incarceration. The petitioner sought downward modification of his sentence, arguing it was inappropriate and disproportionate: “he claim[ed] that had no intent to hurt anyone, that he was raised in a crime ridden neighborhood and that he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident.”

The Court’s Decision

In opposing modification, the State argued that the jury convicted the petitioner of assault in the first degree, which requires “the specific intent to do serious physical injury to the victim by use of a dangerous instrument.” It further pointed out that at the time of the incident, the petitioner was participating in a gang initiation, had multiple felony convictions as well as a limited work history, and had been involved with illegal drug activity since he was in his teens.

When the Division reviews a sentence, it is without authority to modify unless the sentence is “inappropriate or disproportionate” in light of such factors as the nature of the offense and the character of the offender.  Taking into account the State’s arguments, the Division found no merit to the petitioner’s claim, and characterized him as “a danger to society.” Therefore, it affirmed the sentence as both appropriate and proportionate.

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.

Defendant’s Dual-Conviction Violated Double Jeopardy Protections

According to a previous article, a criminal defendant was unsuccessful on his claim that the State provided insufficient evidence to convict him of assault of a peace officer. However, he claim that his convictions for both that crime and interfering with an officer constituted a double jeopardy violation.

The defendant was found guilty on one count each assault of a peace officer and interfering with an officer, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-167c(a)(1) and 53a-167a(a), respectively. In his appeal, the defendant argued that a conviction for both violated his constitutional protections against double jeopardy under state and federal law.

The Double Jeopardy Clause

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. If, however, the court determines that each charge requires proof of an element that the other does not, double jeopardy is typically not implicated.

In this case, the Appellate Court agreed that the double jeopardy clause prohibited conviction for both assault of a peace officer and interfering with an officer. When one looks to the statutory language of each, the latter offense does not contain any criminal elements not also found in the latter offense. The State did not argue the merits of the defendant’s claim. It simply conceded that it expected the Court would vacate the sentence on the second count and combine it with the first, a course of action the Court indeed follow. With respect to the remainder of the defendant’s appeal, the judgment was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of assault of a peace officer or 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.

Requisite Intent for Assaulting an Officer is to Prevent Performance of Duties, Not to Cause Injury

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut declined to reverse a defendant’s conviction for assault of a peace officer because there was sufficient evidence for a jury to return a guilty verdict.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred at 1:00am on January 13, 2006, in Norwalk. The defendant was engaged in a high-speed chase with police when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a guardrail. He attempted to flee from the scene when an officer tackled him from behind, causing both to fall to the ground.

The defendant “violently fought bad kicked [the officer],” who attempted numerous times to subdue the defendant with his Taser gun. Only when other officers arrived was the defendant successfully handcuffed and placed under arrest. Afterwards, the officer realized that he had “bloodied both knees … [and] had an ankle injury which required doctor’s attention.” In addition, the officer suffered a tear to his Achilles tendon that required him to file a worker’s compensation claim and take several days off from work.

Assault of a Peace Officer Charge

The defendant was charged for numerous offenses, including assault of a peace officer in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 35a-167c(a)(1). On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the evidence offered by the State was insufficient to convict him. Specifically, he claimed that the State failed to show that he had the requisite specific intent to injure the officer, and that the officer was injured by the defendant’s actions.

To secure a conviction for assault of a peace officer, the State must offer proof establishing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant “with intent to prevent a reasonably identifiable peace officer… from performing his or her duties, and while such peace officer… is acting in the performance of his duties… causes physical injury to such peace officer.” However, the intent required is to prevent the performance of duties, not the intent to cause injury.

The Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court found that a jury could reasonably find that the defendant committed the offense. It noted there was sufficient evidence presented to the jury that “the defendant had the requisite intent to prevent [the officer] from performing his duties, and the defendant’s actions were a proximate cause of the [officer’s] injuries.” Therefore, the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim was rejected.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


When faced with a charge of interfering with a police officer or assault of a peace 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.

Customized Miranda Warnings Given to Sophisticated Defendant Conveyed the “Essential Message”

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut found that a trial court properly denied a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, because an officer’s recitation of the Miranda warnings adequately apprised him of his rights.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on September 15, 2007, in Stamford. The defendant repeatedly struck a victim in the head using an aluminum baseball bat. The victim suffered life-threatening injuries but survived. The defendant fled to North Carolina, where he was apprehended and returned to Connecticut with two Stamford police officers. During this trip, the defendant made incriminating statements he later sought to suppress.

At the suppression hearing, the officer testified that he gave the defendant the following warnings during the trip:

[H]e has the right to remain silent. Anything he says can and will be used against him in a court of law. He has the right to an attorney. If he cannot afford one, the court will appoint him one. He has the right to stop answering questions at any time. He has the right to invoke his privilege to an attorney at any time. He has the right to not answer specific questions, if he wants to pick and choose the questions he wants to answer.

The officer explained that he prefers to go “above and beyond” the Miranda requirements with added explanations. He asked the defendant whether he understood the warnings, to which the defendant replied, “I know them, I know them, I know them.” The officer testified that at this time, the defendant waived his rights and wished to speak with them.

The Miranda Warnings

The court denied the motion to suppress, noting that the defendant, who had numerous previous arrests, “is very sophisticated, very intelligent and seems to understand a great deal [about] the legal process.” It found that the defendant was “a seasoned individual who understands what Miranda rights are about.” After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of assault in the first degree in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-59(a)(1).  On appeal, he claimed the officer’s recitation of Miranda was inadequate, thus the trial court erred in denying his motion. He did not contest how the trial court characterized him.

In the landmark ruling of Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the indispensability of counsel at the time of custodial interrogation. The Miranda warnings make sure that a defendant understands his or her constitutional rights, and if police engage the defendant in questioning without reciting these rights, the defendant’s statements may be suppressed. Thus, when a reviewing court considers the adequacy of Miranda warnings, it simply asks “whether the warnings reasonably conve[y] to [a suspect] his rights as required by Miranda.”

The Court’s Ruling

In this case, the Appellate Court ruled that the officer’s warnings were adequate because they “communicated the same essential message” as required under Miranda. The Court highlighted the defendant’s familiarity with these rights, as evidenced by the trial court’s characterization and his repeated acknowledgement to the officer. “The essential purpose of Miranda warnings is to provide a criminal suspect with the informed choice either to exercise his [f]ifth and [s]ixth [a]mendment rights or to waive them.” Here, the Court stated that aim was accomplished. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying the motion to suppress evidence.

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.

Knife-Wielding Defendant Properly Convicted of Attempted Assault, Appellate Court Finds

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut found that the State provided sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of attempt to commit assault in the first degree.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on October 21, 2006. The defendant and his wife were arguing over his alcoholism when he threatened to kill her. The defendant went to the butcher’s block for a knife, and as the wife fled their home, she saw him opening a kitchen drawer containing loose knives. At a neighbor’s house, the wife called her daughter and asked to be picked up. After the daughter arrived with her boyfriend, the wife realized she forgot her medication at the house, so the group returned to retrieve it.

After entering the home, they saw the defendant standing at the top of the stairs wielding a knife saying “I’m going… to kill her.” As the wife ran for the door, “she saw the defendant start down the stairs toward her, knife raised, before she again ran from the home.” The daughter’s boyfriend saw the defendant swing the knife. Outside, the group called police as the defendant entered the garage. He was placed under arrest, but police could not find a knife on him or inside the garage. However, they located a three-inch knife on the kitchen table.

The Defendant’s Charges

The defendant was charged with attempt to commit assault in the first degree, among other crimes, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-49(a)(2) and 53a-59(a)(1). At trial, the daughter’s boyfriend testified that the knife he saw the defendant holding was approximately 2.5 to 3 inches in length. The three witnesses, however, provided inconsistent testimony regarding the distance the defendant moved down the stairs. Regardless, the defendant was convicted and sentenced to eighteen years of incarceration.

On appeal, the defendant argued in part that the State provided insufficient evidence to convict him of attempted assault. He claimed that the State did not show he came within close proximity of the wife, or that the knife submitted into evidence was the one he alleged wielded. Finally, he argued that because the testimonial inconsistencies were not resolved, the State failed to meet their burden.

Conviction of Attempted Assault in the First Degree

In Connecticut, to be convicted of attempt to commit assault in the first degree, the State must provide “proof of intentional conduct constituting a substantial step toward intentionally causing the victim serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument.” To qualify as a substantial step, the act taken by the assailant “must be strongly corroborative of the actor’s criminal purpose.” In other words, the action had to be the start of “a line of conduct which will lead naturally to the commission of the crime.”

In this case, the Appellate Court was not persuaded by any aspect of the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim. It stated that there is no requirement under Connecticut law that “an assailant must obtain a particular physical proximity to an intended victim to have taken a substantial step toward committing an assault.” Indeed, various types of conduct enumerated in the attempt statute, such as lying in wait and following a contemplated victim, have no physical proximity requirement.

The Court’s Decision

The Appellate Court disagreed that the State failed to authenticate the knife found at the scene as the one used in the crime. It noted the boyfriend’s testimony as consistent with the knife actually found, and noted that the defense “offered no argument in law or logic that a three inch knife cannot be a deadly weapon.” Finally, it is the responsibility of a jury to weigh the credibility of witness testimony, and could either accept all of it, some of it, or none of it.

However, in this case, “nothing in the testimony of the witnesses contradicted the basic facts… that the defendant was holding a knife and advancing toward [his wife] after having threatened her life.” Therefore, it was reasonable for a jury to conclude that the defendant attempted to commit assault using a dangerous instrument.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of assault, battery, 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.

Intent Element of Conspiracy Established Where Weapon Used in Robbery Was Obtained in Victim’s Home

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut upheld a defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree, since use of a knife obtained the victim’s home furthered the scheme.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on January 22, 2005. The defendant and another man were armed and wearing masks when they broke into the victim’s apartment. They bound the victim and began to beat him, demanding money and rummaging through his personal belongings. One of the men found a knife in the kitchen and heated it on the stove, then they used it to repeatedly burn the victim in hopes that he would reveal where more money was located. In total, the duo took over $12,000 worth of property and cash from the victim’s residence.

The victim was taken from his home and brought to other locations where additional money may have been located. Despite numerous threats to kill the victim, he was released in a high school parking lot in a neighboring town. The perpetrators left the victim with his cell phone and even called 911 on his behalf before departing. The victim conveyed to the operator that he knew the identity of one of the perpetrators, the defendant, from a previous business transaction. After the victim received treatment for his injuries at a local hospital, he identified the defendant in a police photographic array.

Robbery Charges

The defendant was subsequently charged with numerous counts and convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) and 53a-134(a). He was sentenced to eighteen years of incarceration but appealed, arguing in part that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.

Under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-133, a person commits a robbery when, during the commission of a larceny, he uses or threatens to use physical force against the victim for one of two purposes: to counter resistance to the taking of property, or to coerce the delivery of property. To qualify for robbery in the first degree, one of four scenarios must be met, including the use or threatened use of a dangerous instrument.

Conspiracy Charges

On the other hand, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime, and one of them commits an overt act in the furtherance of the conspiracy. For the State to secure a conviction, it must show beyond a reasonable doubt “(1) that a defendant intended that conduct constituting a crime be performed [and] (2) that he agreed with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of such conduct.” Rarely is a conspiracy proven through direct evidence; thus, the use of circumstantial evidence has become commonplace.

The Decision

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of this crime. The victim testified as to the use of the knife, a “dangerous instrument,” during and in furtherance of the robbery itself. Intent is not diminished simply because the knife was found at the apartment: “As long as the defendant had time to reflect and to deliberate on his actions, he can be held culpable for the requisite specific intent to commit a crime.” Therefore, the conviction was upheld.

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.

In Reviewing Evidentiary Inferences, Whether They Are Reasonable and Logical is Paramount Consideration on Appeal

As described in a previous article, the Appellate Court of Connecticut agreed with the State that a jury made permissible inferences regarding a defendant’s fraudulent receipt of worker’s compensation benefits. Prior to this decision, the Court heard additional matters regarding the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict the defendant of charges stemming from the hotel robbery itself.

As the police investigation proceeded, the evidence began to indicate that the defendant was not an innocent victim of the robbery, but rather an active participant. As such, she was arrested for and charged with larceny in the first degree and falsely reporting an incident in the second degree, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-122(a)(2) and 53a-180c(a)(3). A jury returned guilty verdicts on both counts, and the defendant received a total effective sentence of twelve years’ incarceration, execution suspended after five years, with five years of probation.

The Defendant’s Appeal

On appeal, the defendant asserted four arguments, including the claim that the trial court erred by not granting her motion for a judgment of acquittal (MJOA) for both crimes. After the State closed its case-in-chief, defense counsel orally moved for acquittal, arguing that “the evidence was insufficient to permit a finding of guilt as to either crime in general.” The court denied this motion, and defense counsel promptly rested its own case.

The defendant initially attempted to diminish the evidence’s sufficiency by noting it was circumstantial, rather than direct, in nature. However, there is no legal distinction between these two types of evidence with respect to probative force. As long as a jury is convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, either form may be used.

The defendant further asserted her insufficiency of the evidence claim by arguing that police did not spend enough time on this case to pursue other possible perpetrators, such as the defendant’s coworkers. In her appellate brief, the defendant argued that the jury should have disagreed with the State’s interpretation of the evidence to favor her own, asserting “‘plausible’ ways to interpret the evidence so as to reach a [not guilty] verdict.”

The Court’s Decision

When a jury considers evidence, it need not “accept as dispositive those inferences that are consistent with the defendant’s innocence. … The [finder of fact] may draw whatever inferences from the evidence or facts established by the evidence that it deems to be reasonable and logical.” Therefore, when a reviewing court determines whether or not a jury’s inference was proper, it asks whether there is “a reasonable view of the evidence that supports the [finder of fact’s] verdict of guilty.”

In this case, it was the jury’s authority to weigh the credibility of witness testimony and choose which inferences to accept – here, those asserted by the State. Therefore, the Court found that there was ample evidence to support the defendant’s convictions, and the denial of the MJOA was not erroneous.

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 Defendant Indisputably Refused to Comply With Legitimate Police Order, Conviction for Interference With That Officer Was Proper

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut upheld a defendant’s conviction for interference with an officer after refusing to comply with the officer’s orders.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 26, 2005. Officer F initiated a valid traffic stop of a motorist and learned the owner of the vehicle had an outstanding warrant. The car belonged to the defendant and was driven by his son. Officer F “decided to use a ruse to arrest the defendant,” using the son’s cell phone to call the defendant and arrange a meeting to discuss a previously-filed stolen vehicle report. Such a tactic is not constitutionally prohibited. The defendant agreed to meet Officer F at a local school parking lot, who then requested assistance from Officer S to bring the defendant into custody.

Officer S arrived first at the parking lot and met the defendant, who was astonished upon learning that there was a warrant for his arrest. The defendant promptly complied with Officer S’s request for his driver’s license, but refused to sit in the back of the police cruiser when asked to do so. According to Officer S, the defendant stated that the officer had “no right to put him back there” and that he did not “need to be back there.” After confirming the warrant, Officer S attempted to place the defendant under arrest.

However, the defendant became combative and belligerent and further refused to comply with Officer S. All verbal commands were ignored, and the defendant continued to resist until Officer F arrived and threatened to use a chemical spray if he persisted. Thereafter, the defendant was cooperative, and charged with interfering with an officer.

The Trial

At trial, the defendant conveyed a much different version of events. He conceded that he did not sit in the back of the police cruiser when asked to do so, but otherwise politely insisted that a mistake had been made. The defendant claimed that Officer S was “curt, unreasonable and overzealous,” and had Officer F been honest about the motivation for the meeting, he would have amicably met him at police headquarters to discuss the matter.

The jury returned a guilty verdict and the defendant timely appealed, arguing that the State produced “no evidence that he physically prevented [Officer S] from arresting him and that verbal statements and nonphysical refusal to comply with an officer’s directive does not constitute a violation of § 53a-167a.” In other words, the defendant argued that one could only interfere with an officer through physical resistance, not by “being verbally defensive or voicing mere declaratory statements.”

What is Considered Interference or Refusal to Comply with an Officer?

Under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-167a, a person is guilty of interfering with a police officer “when such person obstructs, resists, hinders or endangers” the officer as he is performing his or her official duties. In this case, the jury was presented with two versions of the events regarding whether or not the defendant resisted arrest, and it was within their province, as the arbiter of credibility, to determine which story to believe.

In addition, the Appellate Court noted that the defendant’s refusal to sit in the back of the police cruiser was never in dispute. As such, “[t]he jury reasonably could have inferred that either one of the defendant’s refusals to obey [Officer S] delayed the officer in the performance of his duties in effectuating the defendant’s arrest.” As such, the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim failed.

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.