Posts tagged with "operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence"

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.

Appellate Court Upholds Admission of Expert Testimony Used to Refute Defendant’s Claimed Amount of Alcohol Consumed

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered the admissibility of a State toxicologist’s testimony regarding the amount of alcohol the defendant had to have consumed to reach a blood alcohol content (BAC) level above the legal limit.

This case arose from an incident that occurred after midnight on July 29, 2004. A Greenwich police officer was on duty when he heard the defendant’s car screech off the road and watched as it swerved over a yellow line multiple times before coming to a stop in a parking lot. The officer conducted a traffic stop, during which he made the following observations: the defendant smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, and his eyes were watery and glassy. The defendant told police that he only had four shots of gin between 5pm and 9pm the night before. Based on the defendant’s appearance and performance on the field sobriety tests, he was arrested and transported to the police station. He agreed to submit to two Intoxilyzer tests, which returned BAC readings of 0.138 and 0.143 at 12:29am and 1:04am, respectively.

The defendant was charged with violating General Statutes §§ 14-227a(a)(1) and (2): operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of an intoxicating liquor and while having an elevated blood alcohol content. At trial, the State sought to refute the defendant’s claim that he only had four shots of gin. A Department of Public Safety toxicologist testified that if the defendant drank four shots of gin in the time period stated, it would have fully metabolized by 10pm, two hours before the incident in question. He estimated that given the defendant’s size, every alcoholic drink would produce 0.02 BAC. Therefore, to generate a BAC of 0.143 at 1:04am, the defendant had to have consumed at least seven alcoholic drinks. The defendant was convicted on both subdivisions, and because of a previous OMVUI offense, he was charged as a second offender and subject to enhanced penalties. The defendant appealed his conviction on multiple grounds, including, in part, that the toxicologist’s testimony was irrelevant and it was improper for the trial court to allow it into evidence.

Evidence is relevant, and thus admissible, if it has the “tendency to establish the existence of a material fact.” Decisions to exclude or admit evidence on the basis of relevance will only be overturned upon the showing of a clear abuse of discretion by the trial court. Upon review of the applicable case law, the Appellate Court stated that expert testimony regarding how many alcoholic drinks a defendant needed to consume to reach a particular BAC level has not been deemed irrelevant. Therefore, because the substance of the toxicologist’s testimony encompassed this very subject matter, the trial court did not clearly abuse its discretion by allowing it into 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.

Because Curative Instructions were Properly Administered, Defendant Did Not Suffer Harmful Error in Her DUI Conviction

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered rejected a defendant’s claims that there was insufficient evidence to convict her of DUI, and that she was harmed by an improper limiting instruction.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 17, 2005. A state police trooper observed the defendant’s vehicle weaving and leaving the traffic lane three times along Route 8 in Trumbull, so he conducted a traffic stop. The trooper noticed the defendant had bloodshot eyes and detected the strong odor of alcohol, and the defendant stated she had two glasses of wine at a restaurant in Fairfield. The trooper administered three field sobriety tests, all of which the defendant failed, so she was placed under arrest and brought to state police barracks. During questioning, the defendant stated she had two vodka drinks at a restaurant in Bridgeport. She submitted to an Intoxilyzer test twice, which reported a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.159 and 0.143, both of which were above the legal limit of 0.08.

The defendant was charged with violating General Statutes §§ 14-227a(a)(1) and (2): operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of an intoxicating liquor and while having an elevated blood alcohol content. At trial, the director of controlled substances in the toxicology laboratory for the Department of Public Safety extrapolated the defendant’s BAC to 0.185 at the time she was operating her car. The court instructed the jury that the chemical test results could not be considered as evidence of the defendant’s guilt with respect to the behavioral count. “That evidence was offered for a limited purpose only and is admissible only with respect to the allegations contained in [the per se count] of the information.” The jury convicted the defendant and she appealed, arguing insufficiency of the evidence to convict, and that the jury impermissibly considered the toxicologist’s testimony “regarding the result of the Intoxylizer tests” in deciding upon the behavioral count.

When a reviewing court considers a claim of “evidentiary impropriety,” if the issue affects a constitutional right, the state must prove the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if the purported improper ruling is not constitutional in nature, the defendant must prove that the error was harmful. In cases, such as this one, where the defendant is charged under both subsections of § 14-227a(a), “appropriate limiting instructions regarding the use of chemical analysis serve as the proper safeguard.” Thus, if a defendant does not show evidence indicating otherwise, a jury presumably followed the curative instructions given by the trial court.

In this case, the Appellate Court found that the defendant did not prove that the jury failed to follow the court’s limiting instruction. Therefore, she failed her burden in establishing harmful error. In addition, the Court agreed that there was plenty of evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to the OMVUI charge. It noted the defendant’s appearance on the scene, the failed field sobriety tests, as well as the inconsistent stories she provided. 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.

Court Denies Bail to Repeated DUI Offender

In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut considered a defendant’s motion to be released on bond pending the appeal of his conviction of three counts of operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol.

In this case, the defendant was a self-described victim of the disease of alcoholism, and was first convicted of OMVUI on December 15, 2008. Less than a month later, the defendant was involved in accidents where his blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded 0.23, and he was again charged and convicted of an additional two counts of DUI. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant was sentenced on all three counts, one as a first-time offender, and two as second-time. On January 20, 2009, the defendant filed a motion to vacate, arguing he should have been charged and sentenced as a first-time offender on all three counts, but this motion was denied. The defendant then filed a motion to be released on bond pending his appeal.

Under Connecticut law, there is no constitutional or statutory right to bail. It is subject to the broad discretion of the trial court, and is “rarely allowed when the crime is serious.” Our legislature has characterized OMVUI as a serious offense, as evidenced by increased penalties including mandatory minimum sentences and fines. In this case, the defendant repeatedly operated his car while under the influence with extremely high BACs. “To release the defendant on bail would place the general public at risk of harm from the defendant.” In addition, because the defendant failed to appear in court, custody was necessary to provide “reasonable assurance” that he would appear for his court date. Therefore, the defendant’s motion for release on bond was denied.

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.