Posts tagged with "possession"

Court Upholds Gun Crime Convictions Where Circumstantial Evidence Established That Missing Weapon Was a Pistol

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut found that despite the absence in the record of a weapon used in a shooting, the State presented sufficient circumstantial evidence that it was a pistol. As such, the defendant’s gun crime convictions including criminal possession and use of a pistol were supported by the evidence.

The Case

This case arose from an incident that occurred on May 1, 2004. The victim drank alcohol profusely that evening, first at a party and then at a woman’s house. When he became belligerent and obnoxious, the woman called the defendant, asking him to drive the victim home. The woman became upset with the victim’s behavior and asked him to leave, which he did after yelling at and threatening her.

The defendant called and the woman relayed the most recent events. As the victim was walking home, he noticed a van following him, so he hid in some bushes. As he proceeded once more, he saw the van stopped in front of him. The driver asked if the victim knew the woman, and after the victim said yes he was shot in the stomach. Police soon arrived and transported the victim to the hospital.

During the investigation, the victim told police that the man who shot him drove a gray customized van and used what he thought at first was a cap gun. After his name came up when they spoke with the woman, officers drove by the defendant’s house and observed the vehicle described by the victim. A photographic array was presented to the victim, who chose the defendant’s picture. Officers obtained and executed a search warrant of the defendant’s house, where they seized numerous weapons, magazines and cartridges, and a small amount of marijuana.

The Charges

The defendant was charged with and convicted of assault in the first degree, three counts of criminal possession of a pistol, criminal use of a firearm, and possession of marijuana. On appeal, he argued that the State presented insufficient evidence that the firearm used was a pistol (having a barrel length of less than twelve inches) and thus failed to prove an essential element of the crimes charged. He noted that the weapon used in the shooting was never recovered, and the victim couldn’t describe the weapon in great detail.

The Appellate Court disagreed, noting there was more than enough evidence upon which a jury could reasonably infer the weapon was a pistol. The victim testified that he believed the defendant pointed a cap gun at him; thus, “it is unlikely that anyone would describe as a ‘cap gun’ a firearm with a barrel length longer than one foot.”

In addition, the shell casings at the scene matched ammunition found at the defendant’s house and could be fired from a weapon the defendant once owned. Therefore, the Court concluded that a jury could reasonably conclude that “the missing… pistol was the ‘cap gun’ the victim described as having been used by the defendant in this shooting.” Therefore, the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence claim failed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of criminal use or possession of a firearm or other gun-related offenses, 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

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

Categories of Student Misbehavior Qualifying for Suspension

Categorizing Misbehavior

When a student misbehaves at school, he or she may be punished with a suspension in one of three categories: the behavior

  1. violated a publicized school policy;
  2. seriously disrupted the educational process; or
  3. endangered persons or property.[1]

As a parent, it is important that you understand what conduct qualifies as prohibited conduct, and in some instances you may be able to contest the characterization.

Violation of Publicized School Policy

School boards have the statutory authority to draft disciplinary rules and policies that apply to student conduct within their district. To that end, they utilize student handbooks, which are distributed to each child at the beginning of the school year, that specifically list conduct that is prohibited. Therefore, if and when a student engages in that conduct, school administrators may issue a suspension.

The rules and guidelines found in student handbooks must be clear and understandable so as to give students and parents reasonable notice of prohibited conduct.[2] Furthermore, the rules must not be completely arbitrary: rather, there must be some relationship between the rules and their intended purposes. Admittedly, this is not a difficult standard to meet.

If you are a parent and your child is suspended under this category, you should first review the school handbook to establish whether or not your child actually violated an articulated disciplinary rule. “You will likely be able to make a stronger case for your child during suspension hearings… if you can show that his or her conduct is neither prohibited by the school nor violates any school rules.”[3]

Serious Disruption of the Educational Process

To qualify for this category, a student’s behavior must interfere with the operation of a class, study hall, library, or any meeting that involves student or staff.[4] Even non-serious disruptions that are recurrent or cumulative qualify, though administrators will consider the frequency, number, and severity of these occurrences.[5]

Endangerment of Persons or Property

Finally, “endangerment of persons or property” constitutes conduct that exposes a student to injury, risk, or a harmful situation.[6] A number of student behaviors would fall under this category, including but not limited to:

  • Fighting and bullying
  • Possession of firearms or controlled substances
  • Damage to personal or school property

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact a suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. Should you have any questions regarding school discipline or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233c.

[2] Crossen v. Fatsi, 309 F. Supp. 114 (D. Conn. 1970).

[3] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at pp.42.

[4] “Guidelines for In-School and Out-of-School Suspensions,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, at pp.9.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 10.