Posts tagged with "motion to suppress"

In Light of Reasonable Suspicion, Police Properly Detained Burglary Suspect

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the convictions of a burglar who argued that officers had no reasonable or articulable suspicion to detain him.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on March 21, 2007. Earlier that year, a neighborhood was suffering from a series of residential burglaries. On February 14, a victim was leaving her home when she saw a man wearing a dark sweatshirt with dark pants, with the hood pulled up, looking down while walking in front of her house. She later returned to find her house burglarized and many possessions, including a handgun, were stolen. She recalled seeing a similar person two days earlier, and conveyed this as well as the physical description to police; a similar description was developed from victims of other burglaries.

On March 21, the victim saw the defendant, who matched the appearance of the person near her house the day it was burglarized. Her husband called police, who were dispatched to the defendant’s location, and officers were aware that a gun was stolen during the burglary. The defendant was detained, and a pat down revealed a handgun in his sweatshirt pocket. The defendant informed police that “he was not properly licensed nor legally permitted to carry the gun.” The defendant was arrested and charged for numerous crimes on several dockets. He filed a motion to suppress all evidence because it was obtained during an unlawful search and seizure. The court denied this motion, finding that police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion that justified the search.

The defendant entered into a conditional plea to larceny in the first degree, burglary in the third degree, and stealing a firearm. Following sentencing he appealed, arguing that the court improperly denied his motion because police had no reasonable or articulable suspicion to stop him. He noted that “the record contains no indication that he was observed directly engaging in criminal conduct or suspicious activity.”

An officer may temporarily detain an individual for investigative purposes if he has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. The scope of an investigatory stop must be “carefully tailored to its underlying justification,” and an officer may make “reasonable inquiries” to confirm or dispel his suspicions. The ultimate question is “whether a reasonable person, having the information available to and known by the police, would have had that level of suspicion.”

In this case, the Appellate Court noted that the defendant’s presence in this neighborhood, the time of day, how he was dressed, and the manner in which he walked would not, on their own, be sufficient to justify a stop. However, in light of the additional information provided by victims, such factors provide sufficient reasonable and articulable suspicion to justify an investigatory stop. “The possibility of an innocent explanation does not deprive the officers of the capacity to entertain a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.” Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of larceny or burglary, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Defendant Unsuccessfully Appeals Evading Responsibility Charge Due to Sufficient Evidence to Convict Prior to Alleged Unlawful Entry

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s arguments on appeal that his arrest was the product of an illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the night of February 2, 2006. The defendant was driving under the influence with two passengers when lost control of his car and struck two wooden guardrails. An eyewitness called police, but the defendant drove away before a state trooper arrived. The eyewitness explained that after the collision, he heard a female screaming and she appeared injured. He further noted that the driver, who appeared intoxicated, exited the car and ripped off the front bumper. The trooper searched the scene, noting “two damaged guardrail posts, empty beer bottles, a shoe and an automobile bumper.” The bumper’s license plate helped the trooper identify the vehicle’s owner as the defendant.

With back-up, the trooper proceeded to the defendant’s residence, where he saw a vehicle with fresh body damage and a missing front bumper. They approached the front door, knocked and announced their presence, but no one answered. Based on the eyewitness testimony, the car damage, and his experience and training, the trooper was concerned about the health and safety of the vehicle’s occupants. They entered the residence, noting a shoe on the floor matching the one at the scene, and found the defendant sleeping. The troopers could not wake him up, and because the defendant “would stop breathing for several seconds every few minutes,” they called for paramedics.

The paramedics arrived and successfully roused the defendant, who quickly became agitated and ordered everyone out of his home. The troopers attempted to “ascertain the condition of the female passenger,” but the defendant would not answer this question, or sign a summons for evasion of responsibility. Therefore, troopers attempted to initiate an arrest, but the defendant resisted and hurled saliva at the troopers twice, hitting one of them in the leg, before he was handcuffed.

The defendant was charged with evasion of responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle, assault of public safety personnel, and interfering with an officer in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) §§ 14-224(b), 53a-167c, and 53a-167a, respectively. The defendant filed a motion to suppress “all evidence seized and all arrests made,” arguing they were all in violation of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. This motion was denied because the court believed that officers entered his household properly under the emergency doctrine exception to the exclusionary rule. The defendant appealed following his conviction, claiming, in part, that the court abused its discretion in denying his motion to suppress evidence.

Generally, evidence obtained as a result of prior illegal police action will be excluded from evidence. To determine whether application of the exclusionary rule is proper, a court must determine “whether the challenged evidence is in some sense the product of illegal government activity.” If, however, the inclusion on the record of illegally obtained evidence was harmless – that it did not contribute to the defendant’s conviction in a meaningful way – a court will not grant a new trial for failure to grant a motion to suppress. In this case, there was ample evidence to convict for evading responsibility before the troopers entered the defendant’s home. Though the shoe observed inside the home may have “bolstered the state’s case to some extent,” the Appellate Court did not believe it was enough to contribute to conviction.

In a relatively recent decision, the Supreme Court of Connecticut adopted a new exception to the exclusionary rule: the new crime exception. This exception applies if subsequent crimes are “sufficiently attenuated from the alleged illegal entry by the police.” In this case, the Appellate Court was convinced such a gap in time existed from when officers first entered the defendant’s home and when the defendant became combative. Therefore, the Appellate Court declined to grant a new trial on the basis of the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. After addressing and rejecting additional matters of appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Denied, as DUI Convict’s Claims Lacked Merit

In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut considered a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, in which the petitioner claimed that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of DUI and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the evening of December 24, 2005. State troopers on routine patrol observed the petitioner driving his vehicle erratically and initiated a traffic stop. The petitioner admitted that he consumed a few beers, but would not answer any follow-up questions. He smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and glassy eyes, and had trouble handling his license and papers. Because the petitioner had one leg, troopers could only administer the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, which the petitioner failed. He was arrested and transported to barracks, where he was belligerent and argumentative. In the processing room, the petitioner was seen slumped over his chair.

The petitioner was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 14-227a(a)(1). At trial, he was represented by the Chief Public Defender, a veteran in the practice of law. The petitioner wanted a bench trial for reasons of expediency, even though defense counsel both advised against this decision and explained the ramifications of waiver. In formulating a defense strategy, counsel chose to minimize the testimony regarding the HGN test. He was not convinced that asserting a head injury would discredit such testimony, and felt a motion to suppress would be unsuccessful. Defense counsel robustly cross-examined all of the troopers, and the petitioner agreed to testify on his own behalf regarding his head injury.

Nonetheless, the petitioner was convicted of OMVUI and sentenced to two years incarceration, one year probation, and 500 hours of community service. However, he did not appeal his decision and instead filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of OMVUI, that his constitutional right to a jury trial was violated, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, among other claims.

In a bench ruling, the Superior Court was not persuaded by any of the petitioner’s claims and denied his petition. It noted that even absent the HGN test evidence, there was sufficient evidence to prove the petitioner committed OMVUI. The petitioner knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial: indeed, it was the petitioner who insisted on a bench trial, and defense counsel properly explained the consequences of going this route. Finally, the Court believed that petitioner failed to prove the existence of deficient performance by counsel and prejudice in the outcome of his case. Defense counsel employed sound trial strategy and zealously advocated on behalf of his client. As the Court explained, “An analysis of the record below indicates an experienced trial attorney who was not successful when faced with a strong case presented by the state.”

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Appellate Court Reviews Officer’s Actions During Traffic Stop of DUI Suspect

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered whether a police officer lacked a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the defendant was driving under the influence and impermissibly prolonged a traffic stop.

This case arose from an incident that occurred at 1:21am on April 13, 2007. A state trooper on routine patrol was driving along Route 72 in New Britain when he observed a vehicle rapidly accelerating as it entered the highway. The trooper clocked the speed of this vehicle at approximately 100mph, despite a 55mph posted speed limit, and he initiated a traffic stop, though the driver parked his car on an exit ramp with part of it protruding into the travel lane. For his own safety, the trooper approached the passenger side of the car and asked the driver, who was later identified as the defendant, to provide his license, registration, and proof of insurance. The officer inquired whether he consumed any alcohol that night, to which the defendant replied he had not.

The trooper validated the documents and shortly thereafter returned to the defendant’s car, unsure whether to arrest the defendant or issue a summons for reckless driving. The trooper asked the defendant to exit his car and immediately noticed the odor of alcohol and the defendant’s bloodshot, glassy eyes. The defendant admitted to drinking two alcoholic beverages, so the trooper administered several field sobriety tests and subsequently arrested him. The entire incident lasted no more than twenty-five minutes.

The defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) in violation of § 14-227a. He filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained after the initial traffic stop, arguing that the trooper did not have a reasonable and articulable suspicion “to take any action at that point other than ticketing or arresting [him] for reckless driving.” The trial court denied the motion, stating that when the trooper had not yet completed the initial purpose of the traffic stop. Therefore, the extension of the stop was not unlawful. The defendant entered into a conditional plea of nolo contendere, then appealed.

A police officer has authority to briefly stop a suspicious person and make “reasonable inquiries” to confirm or dispel his suspicions of potential criminal activity. There is no bright-line limitation on the duration of this stop, and an officer may inquire about matters unrelated to the traffic stop itself “so long as those inquiries do not measurably extend [its] duration.” In light of the need to protect an officer, asking a driver to exit his vehicle is a comparatively minimal intrusion on his personal liberty.

In this case, the Appellate Court found that the trooper did not unlawfully extend the traffic stop. The duration, from initial encounter to arrest, was approximately twenty-five minutes, and the trooper’s actions during this time were “all reasonable as they related to the traffic stop itself.” The trooper acted properly in asking the defendant to exit his vehicle: the burden on the defendant’s individual liberty was minimal compared to asking the trooper to stand in an exit ramp travel lane in the middle of the night. In addition, the trooper had a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the defendant was intoxicated, so conducting the field sobriety tests in this situation was proper. Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed judgment.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence), an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Lower Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion in Termination of Cross-Examination, Since Evidence Was Not Relevant in Suppression Hearing

In a recent criminal law matter, the defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) in violation of § 14-227a(a)(1). He filed a motion to suppress the arrest due to lack of probable cause, and a hearing was held. The State asked the arresting officer, who was their only witness, to describe his police training and what happened on the night of the defendant’s arrest. The prosecutor asked the officer questions related to his return to the defendant’s vehicle after the initial traffic stop. However, the court interjected, stating this line of questioning was beyond the scope of the motion. The prosecutor agreed, and defense counsel began his cross-examination, repeatedly asking about the officer’s training. The court once more interrupted, stating the officer’s training and what occurred beyond the initial stop concerned questions of fact for the jury. Although defense counsel vehemently objected, he did not make a proffer “of other evidence he wanted to adduce during the cross-examination.”

The motion to suppress was denied and the defendant was subsequently convicted following a jury trial. On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the court abused its discretion when it cut off his counsel’s cross-examination during the suppression hearing. He stated that he was entitled to a “full and fair cross-examination of the state’s sole witness,” and the court’s action constituted a deprivation of his Sixth Amendment protections.

The right of confrontation is a cornerstone principle of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A criminal defendant has a right to cross-examination, which “requires that the defendant be allowed to present the [fact finder] with facts from which it could appropriately draw inferences relating to the witness’ reliability.” In other words, during cross-examination, the defendant has the opportunity through counsel to expose a witness’ motive, interest, bias, or prejudice. However, a defendant is not permitted to present “every piece of evidence he wishes,” and courts generally have considerable discretion in controlling matters discussed during cross-examination. When a defendant claims a violation of his right to cross-examine, a reviewing court will consider: “The nature of the excluded inquiry, whether the field of inquiry was adequately covered by other questions that were allowed, and the overall quality of the cross-examination viewed in relation to the issues actually litigated at trial.”

In this case, the Appellate Court of Connecticut agreed that the court erred in determining that what happened after the initial traffic stop was a question for the jury and thus outside the scope of the suppression hearing. Nonetheless, it found that the court did not abuse its discretion because the officer’s training was not relevant and the defense counsel proffered no other evidence he sought to discuss during cross-examination. In addition, counsel had ample opportunity at trial to extensively cross-examine the officer, but “nothing in it… could have affected the validity of the court’s ultimate ruling on the motion to suppress.” Because the evidence of the officer’s training was not relevant, the defendant’s confrontations rights were not violated. Therefore, the lower court properly excluded the evidence.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence), an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Superior Court Denies Defendant’s Motions to Suppress Confession, Citing Sufficient, Independent Corroborating Proof

In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut considered a defendant’s motions to suppress a confession and evidence arguing insufficiency of the evidence to establish that he was the driver a DUI-related incident.

This case arose from an incident that occurred after midnight on January 16, 2009. While responding to a two-car accident in front of Foxwoods Casino, a state trooper came across a one-car accident along the away. The defendant was walking around the car and appeared confused and dazed. No one else was in the vicinity besides other vehicles passing by. The trooper noticed that the defendant smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot glassy eyes, and was unsteady on his feet. The defendant stated he was the driver of the vehicle, and explained that while driving, an oncoming car crossed into his lane. To avoid a head-on collision, the defendant swerved off the road and hit a rock. He admitted to consuming seven glasses of wine while at Foxwoods.

The trooper observed that the defendant’s car was steaming and hissing, indicating the accident had recently occurred. There was heavy front-end damage, as well as debris next to a large rock along the side of the road, consistent with the damage to the car. The trooper conducted field sobriety tests, all of which the defendant failed. The defendant was placed under arrest and brought to the state trooper barracks, where he underwent blood alcohol tests at 12:58am and 1:50am. The defendant registered a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .135 and .121, respectively, both above the legal limit of 0.08.

The defendant was charged with operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) in violation of § 14-227a. He filed a motion to suppress his confession that he was the driver, as well as a motion to suppress the results of the field sobriety and blood alcohol tests administered to him after the accident. The defendant argued that there was insufficient corroborative evidence to establish that he operated the car, meaning his confession was inadmissible. In addition, he argued that the State did not present evidence to establish the blood alcohol tests were administered within the two-hour statutory window after operation.

When a defendant makes a “naked extrajudicial confession of guilt,” this on its own is not sufficient to sustain a criminal conviction unless supported by corroborative evidence. Such evidence need not be direct evidence, but may be circumstantial in nature as well. If, however, the crime charged does not involve a specific harm, loss, or injury, such as OMVUI, it “is [only] necessary … to require the Government to introduce substantial independent evidence which would tend to establish the trustworthiness of the [defendant’s] statement.” Finally, chemical tests measuring BAC must be taken within two hours after operation of the motor vehicle occurs.

In this case, the Superior Court found sufficient independent proof, in the form of the trooper’s observations, to corroborate the truthfulness of the defendant’s assertion that he was the driver of the vehicle. In addition, the evidence supported the conclusion that the accident happened very recently: as the court wrote, “the accident could not have gone undetected for any substantial length of time.” In addition, since the trooper did not start his shift until 12:00am, and the second chemical blood alcohol test was administered at 1:50am, it was proper to conclude that the tests were taken prior to the expiration of the two-hour statutory window.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence), an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion Allowing Police to Pull Over Intoxicated Driver

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut upheld a trial court’s decision that police officers had reasonable and articulable suspicion to pull over a defendant they believed was driving under the influence of alcohol.

This case arose from an incident that occurred at approximately 10:30pm on July 16, 2006. Two citizens (informants) were driving in their car when they observed a dark SUV driven poorly by the defendant. They decided to follow, and then called police because they were concerned for the safety of the public and the defendant. The informants provided dispatch with a description of the defendant’s vehicle, the direction he was traveling, and the following observations: he frequently swerved and crossed the center yellow line, weaved in and out of the travel lane, and nearly collided with another vehicle. Dispatch relayed this information to a nearby patrol car, which saw the defendant’s car stopped at a green light and driving only 15 miles per hour (mph) in a 40mph zone. After spotting the informants pointing to the defendant’s vehicle, the officers pulled him over. The defendant was later charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol in violation of State law.

The defendant submitted a motion to suppress evidence, which the trial court denied. It found that officers had at least “reasonable suspicion to believe the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol,” given the informants’ information and the police officers’ personal observations. The defendant entered a conditional plea of nolo contendere, and upon conviction and sentencing, he appealed. The defendant argued that the record did not have enough corroborative evidence to establish a reasonable and articulable suspicion to pull him over. He further argued that the trial court improperly found that the stop was based, in part, on the police officers’ observations of his erratic driving.

When a police officer conducts an investigatory stop or seizure, he must have a “reasonable and articulable suspicion at the time the seizure occurred.” To determine whether such suspicion exists, a reviewing court will determine whether the trial court’s factual findings were clearly erroneous, and whether the conclusion based on those findings was legally correct. This decision relies on the totality of the circumstances, and the facts of a case are reviewed objectively. In the context of citizen informants, our State Supreme Court has held that there are situations involving an anonymous tip which, with police corroboration, “exhibits sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop.” Identifiable citizen informers are presumptively reliable because they can easily be located and held accountable if they provide false information to police.

In this case, the Appellate Court stated that in determining whether the police officers had a reasonable and articulable suspicion, the trial court did not have to rely on only their observations. It noted that the trial court declared the informants to be “identifiable citizen informant[s],” a finding with which the Appellate Court did not disagree. The Court described the extensive corroboration of the informants’ information by police officers, and noted that the police were “not required to wait for erratic driving or an accident to occur before pulling over the defendant.” Therefore, the Court found the presence of reasonable and articulable suspicion, and that the trial court did not commit clear error in their findings.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence), an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Defendant’s Motions to Suppress Evidence from Urinalysis and Field Sobriety Tests After Boating Incident

This case arose from an incident that occurred on July 8, 2007. The defendant consumed six ounces of bourbon whiskey over the course of approximately an hour and a half, and then traveled down the Connecticut River on his motorboat. The river was extremely crowded with other vessels due to the holiday. At 3:46pm, the defendant was traveling at 30 knots (or 34.5mph) when he fell out of the boat, which then struck a nearby sailboat and killed one of the passengers.

The defendant was quickly rescued, and brought to the dock an hour after the accident. Police officers on the scene observed the defendant as unsteady, disoriented, and confused, and had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol. While the officers conducted a series of field sobriety tests, for which they received extensive training, the defendant became belligerent and argumentative. After the tests were complete, the defendant was brought to the police station, where officers conducted two urinalysis tests at 5:56pm and then 6:30pm.

The defendant was charged with reckless operation of a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, second-degree manslaughter, and seven other counts in violation of various General Statutes. The defendant filed three motions to suppress the urinalysis tests, to suppress evidence of the field sobriety tests, and to request a Porter hearing to determine whether the urinalysis procedure used by Connecticut agencies was proper.

General Statutes § 15-140l makes it a crime to recklessly operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. A person may be charged in the first degree if, while under the influence, they operate a vessel in such a way that it results in serious physical injury to others or damages property in excess of $2,000. “Operate” in this context means that “the vessel is underway or aground and not moored, anchored or docked.” Evidence that is used to establish the amount of alcohol or drug in the defendant’s blood or urine is admissible under General Statutes § 15-140r(a), as long as the test occurred within two hours from the operation of a vessel. In this case, the urinalysis tests were taken more than two hours after the accident. Therefore, the Superior Court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress this evidence.

Evidence derived from field sobriety tests is admissible so long as the State lays the foundation that the testing officer “is qualified to perform the tests, and that the tests were conducted in substantial accord with relevant procedures and standards.” That is to say, officers do not need to perform the tests perfectly, because ideal conditions are not always present. In this case, the officers testified as to the extent of their training, and the defendant had ample opportunity to cross-examine them. Because this was a matter of the weight of the evidence and not its admissibility, the Court denied the defendant’s motion in limine to suppress this evidence.

In State v. Porter, the State Supreme Court ruled that where a party objects to scientific evidence offered by the other party, the burden rests with the proponent to establish that the evidence is admissible. Generally, evidence will be admissible so long as it tends to support a relevant fact and is neither prejudicial nor cumulative. The Porter court held that scientific evidence should only be inadmissible if “the methodology underlying such evidence is sufficiently invalid to render the evidence incapable of helping the fact finder determine a fact in dispute.”

Connecticut recognizes three methods of testing for the presence of alcohol – blood, breath, and urine – and each of these methods is statutorily recognized as reliable for legal purposes. Thus, “[o]nce a scientific process or methodology has been approved after a Porter analysis, it can be admitted in subsequent cases without a second Porter-type analysis.” In this case, because urinalysis is statutorily approved, the defendant did not have a right to a Porter hearing. Therefore, his motion for this hearing to determine the admissibility of the chemical urinalysis was denied.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle or vessel while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence), an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Toxicology Report Suppressed in DUI Case Because Warrantless Search Exceptions Did Not Apply

In this criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut granted a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, because the State did not show exigent circumstances allowing the warrantless seizure.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 15, 2003. The defendant was involved in an automobile accident, resulting in the death of the other driver. He was transported to a nearby hospital where, without a warrant, police requested that his blood be drawn. One of the officers unaware of this order was informed of that the blood had been drawn, so he elected to not perform the field sobriety and chemical alcohol tests. Five days later, police applied for and was granted a warrant for the blood toxicology report. The defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI), in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 14-227a(a), and second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, among several other counts. On March 8, 2004, the defendant submitted a motion to suppress the toxicology report, arguing that they were obtained in violation of the search and seizure protections of the state and federal constitutions.

Under state and federal law, individuals are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, houses, papers, and effects. The “[c]ompulsory administration of a blood test” clearly constitutes a search and seizure of one’s person. If a search is conducted without a warrant evidencing probable cause, it is per se unreasonable, and evidence derived from this illegal search will be excluded unless one of a “few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions” applies. Two such exceptions to the exclusionary rule are inevitable discovery and exigent circumstances.

The inevitable discovery exception will thwart suppression of evidence if the State can show, by the preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that through lawful means the evidence would have been discovered anyway. Officers must have been actively pursuing such means before the constitutional violation in question occurred. In this case, the State argued that this exception applied because had the officer not been told the blood was drawn, he would have proceeded with the various OMVUI-related tests. Therefore, the State would have inevitably discovered the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC). However, the Superior Court was not persuaded, because the State assumed that the defendant would have consented to the alcohol chemical tests. Under CGS § 14-227b, a person is free to refuse the test, though he will face license suspension for doing so. As such, the police could not presume that this procedure would inevitably lead them to discovery of the defendant’s BAC level.

Exigent circumstances doctrine applies where police officers, who have requisite probable cause, do not have time to get a warrant. They must act swiftly to effectuate an arrest, search, or seizure, to avoid, for example, the destruction of evidence. The State bears the burden to point to specific and articulable facts that gave rise to the exigent circumstances. In this case, the State argued that if they did not order that the defendant’s blood be taken, they would have lost evidence of his BAC level. However, the Superior Court noted that the record was devoid of any facts to support this proposition. Therefore, because neither exception applied to the facts of this case, the Superior Court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, 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.

How Do I Write a Writ of Discovery or Suppression in Connecticut?

If you are going through a criminal case in Connecticut unrepresented, you may consider checking the judicial website or the Connecticut Practice Book for information on court procedure.  However, in many criminal cases, as the stakes are often high, an inexperienced defendant should consult experienced counsel.  Counsel can easily file any discovery motions or motion to suppress, in a timely and competent manner.  Without representation it is likely that a defendant will become overwhelmed by complex court procedures and will fail to handle the matter as effectively as possible.

If you have any further questions regarding criminal law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.