Posts tagged with "probation"

A Student’s Rights During the Expulsion Process

When a school board decides that a child’s misbehavior warrants a greater punishment than up to ten (10) days’ exclusion from school, they may instead consider issuing an expulsion. As with suspensions, there are three recognized grounds (discussed in greater detail here) for expelling a student: his or her behavior 1) violates a publicized school policy; 2) seriously disrupts the educational process; or 3) endangers persons or property. Where the conduct was committed on school grounds, only one category need be established; if off school grounds, then a showing of both #2 and #3 are required.

As a parent, if your child is facing an expulsion, it is imperative that you understand your child’s rights during the expulsion process. Below you will find a concise guide on what to expect before, during, and after the expulsion hearing.

Before the Hearing and Preparation

When an expulsion is considered for student misbehavior, parents must receive written notice “within twenty-four hours detailing the date, time, a plain statement of the matters at hand, and a list of free or reduced-fee legal services.”[1] The school board must also provide any and all documentary evidence it intends to present at a suspension hearing. Barring emergency circumstances,[2] students are statutorily entitled to a formal hearing in front of the school board within ten (10) days after the proposed expulsion.[3]

Parents are advised that prior to the hearing, they review the school board’s evidence and speak with the school board’s witnesses to understand the substance of their potential testimony. In addition, parents should arrange for their own witnesses to testify on their child’s behalf.

At the Hearing

The expulsion hearing is presided over by three members of the board of education (or an impartial hearing officer).[4] Their purpose is to determine whether an expulsion is proper, and if so, how long it should last. A school administrator will present the facts leading to the expulsion, followed by presentation of evidence and cross-examination of witnesses by both parties. Board members have the opportunity to ask questions, and both the student and administrator may present additional arguments.

After the Hearing

The school board or hearing officer may render one of three possible decisions:

  1. Reject expulsion. The child immediately eligible to return to school.
  2. Support expulsion. The child cannot attend school or any school-sponsored activity for the duration of the expulsion. The school board will consider disciplinary history in determining the length of the expulsion.
  3. Recommend a suspended expulsion. This is basically probation for the student. If the student misbehaves again, the expulsion may be imposed.

Within twenty-four (24) hours of the hearing, parents must receive the decision. If expulsion was recommended, parents cannot appeal but are left with some choices:

  • The board must provide an alternative educational program (AEP) for the duration of the expulsion. Click here for more information on AEPs.
  • The parent may seek to enroll their child in another school, but this may be denied by the potential receiving school.
  • The parent may apply, on their child’s behalf, for early re-admission to the school.

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 JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at pp.42 (citing Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(a)(3)).

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(a).

[3] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(a)(3).

[4] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d.

Defendant’s “Dastardly Overall Scheme of Personal Greed” Did Not Warrant Sentence Modification

In a previous article, the petitioner was convicted of arson in the first degree, larceny in the first degree, insurance fraud, and conspiracy after burning down his home and receiving nearly $400,000 from insurance payouts. For his crimes, he was sentenced to a total effective sentence of thirteen years of incarceration (upwards up thirty-three years if he violated probation). Approximately one year after conviction, the petitioner sought downward modification of his sentence, claiming it was inappropriate and disproportionate.

In front of the Sentence Review Division (Division), counsel for the petitioner argued that his client was of good moral character. He highlighted the petitioner’s substantial consecutive work history and lack of a criminal history prior to this incident. Therefore, counsel stated that a ten-year sentence was proper. The State, however, objected to modification, noting “both the seriousness of the offense and the ample evidence to convict.” In addition, the State argued that emergency personnel could have been injured as a result of the fire intentionally set by the defendant.

Pursuant to the Connecticut Practice Book § 43-23 et seq., the Division has authority to modify sentences only upon a showing that they are:

[I]nappropriate or disproportionate in light of the nature of the offense, the character of the offender, the protection of the public interest and the deterrent, rehabilitative, isolative and denunciatory purposes for which the sentence was intended.

The court that originally sentenced the defendant characterized the defendant’s actions as a “two-part crime; the torching of the home and the bilking of the insurance company.” Such conduct was “part of a dastardly overall scheme of personal greed.” The Division credited the defendant’s fortune that no one was injured during this incident, but nonetheless agreed that the sentence was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Sentence Imposed Following Voluntarily Plea Agreement in Larceny Case Was Proper, Modification Unwarranted

In a recent criminal law matter, the Sentence Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to modify a petitioner’s sentence because it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

In this case, the petitioner had three minor children and received $48,300 over the course of three years from the Department of Social Services (DSS) to pay for daycare. However, a subsequent DSS investigation revealed that she instead gave the money to a friend, who could not have provided such services because she was otherwise employed.

The petitioner was charged with larceny in the first degree by defrauding a public community, which violated Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-122(a)(4). She accepted a plea agreement, but first had the opportunity to make restitution payments; she failed to do so. During the presentencing investigation (PSI), the petitioner “minimized her larcenous conduct and suggested the DSS had failed to fully inform her about its rules regarding the use of the child care funds.” She was sentenced to ten years’ incarceration, execution suspended after four years, with five years of probation, and subsequently sought a reduction.

The Division is severely restricted regarding criminal sentence modification to instances where it is either inappropriate or disproportionate. In this case, it noted that the petitioner’s sentence was “within the parameters of an agreement that she accepted pursuant to her voluntarily plea of guilty.” In conjunction with the nature of her crime, PSI comments, and failure to make any restitution payments, the Division determined the sentence was proper, and affirmed.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Attorney Did Not Ineffectively Represent Her Non-Citizen Client, Despite Failing to Seek Plea Agreement That Would Avoid Deportation

In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut denied a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, because the petitioner’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were unpersuasive.

In this case, the petitioner, a legal resident of the U.S., was charged with larceny in the first degree and possession of narcotics. Trial counsel discussed the possibility of participation in the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (CADAC) program, which upon successful completion would result both in dropped charges and avoiding deportation. However, the petitioner did not want to undergo drug addiction treatment, so this option was not pursued.

Trial counsel was extremely knowledgeable about the immigration consequences of non-citizen defendant convictions. As such, she made it a part of her regular practice to thoroughly discuss such with her clients. The State presented the petitioner with a plea agreement that would result in no jail time. While trial counsel told her client that the deal was good for that reason, because of the petitioner’s legal status and the nature of the charges, accepting the plea would subject the defendant to mandatory deportation. She did not attempt to provide an alternative agreement or counteroffer that would avoid deportation, nor did she discuss such possibilities with the petitioner. Thus, the petitioner accepted the State’s terms, and during the plea canvass, he responded that he understood the possible immigration consequences of the plea.

The petitioner was given a suspended sentence, but violated his probation with another drug offense. New defense counsel unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate terms that would avoid deportation, and the petitioner came to the attention of immigration authorities once he was incarcerated. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel did not properly investigate the petitioner’s legal status and risk of deportation; he was not properly advised regarding the risk of deportation; and counsel did not include his immigration status and deportation risk as part of the plea bargaining process.

When a court considers an ineffective assistance claim, it applies a two-part test from Strickland v. Washington: deficient performance and prejudice to the outcome of the case. A habeas petition can be denied on either ground. In this case, the Superior Court did not believe that trial counsel’s conduct was deficient. It credited the extent of her background and training in immigration matters, and found that she properly advised her client on the consequences of accepting the plea agreement.

The Court further noted the petitioner’s unwillingness to participate in the CADAC program, which “demonstrates that the petitioner was not concerned with the possible immigration consequences of his situation.” Further evidence of the petitioner’s understanding is found in the plea canvass, where the trial court specifically asked whether he knew the consequences of pleading guilty, to which he responded “yes.” Finally, that trial counsel did not present an alternative plea or counteroffer is not a duty imposed on attorneys in this State in the context of ineffective assistance of counsel. Therefore, the Superior Court denied the habeas petition.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Where Defendant Evaded Responsibility Prior to Start of Probation, Termination of Accelerated Rehabilitation Was Not Warranted

In a recent criminal law matter, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk, Geographical Area 20 at Norwalk granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss the State’s action seeking termination of his participation in an accelerated rehabilitation program (Program).

In this case, the defendant was charged for several crimes, including reckless driving, operation of a motor vehicle with the intent to harass or intimidate, and operating under suspension. The defendant sought entry into the Program on August 4, 2004, but five days later, he was charged with evasion of responsibility, a violation of General Statutes § 14-224(b). On September 1, 2004, the defendant was granted participation in the Program and subsequently pled guilty to evading responsibility the following May. However, the State asked the Superior Court to terminate the defendant’s participation in the Program because he pled guilty during the probationary period.

Pursuant to General Statutes § 54-56(e), criminal defendants may seek entry into accelerated pretrial rehabilitation. The purpose of this Program is for criminal defendants to earn and assert the right to have their charges dismissed, so long as they satisfactorily complete the probationary period without violating any general or special conditions imposed. An example of a general condition, as found in this case, is not violating any state or federal criminal law. In his motion to dismiss, the defendant argued that the actions underlying the charge to which he pled guilty occurred on August 9, 2004, before the probationary period began on September 1, 2004. As such, he could not have violated the general conditions of his probation. The Superior Court agreed with the defendant, and further noted that “a violation of probation occurs when the probationer’s criminal conduct arises during the probationary period.” (Emphasis added.) Therefore, the motion to dismiss was granted.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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When ATVs are Driven on Public Highways, They Are “Motor Vehicles” for Purposes of State Suspension Laws

In a recent criminal law matter, the Supreme Court of Connecticut affirmed a trial court’s revocation of a defendant’s probation after he operated his all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on public roads while his driver’s license was suspended.

In this case, the defendant pled guilty to driving under the influence as a third-time offender. He was sentenced to three years’ incarceration, execution suspended after one year, with three years’ probation. The following conditions of probation were imposed: a general condition prohibiting the violation of any state criminal statute, and a special condition prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle with a suspended license. The Department of Motor Vehicles permanently suspended the defendant’s driver’s license due to his history of suspensions. The defendant served the one unsuspended year in jail, then began his probation. Before the term expired, he received two criminal citations after he operated an ATV in the travel lanes of town roads. Therefore, he was subsequently charged with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license in violation of CGS § 14-215, as well as violation of probation.

A probation revocation hearing was held, where the trial court determined that the defendant violated the general and special conditions. His probation was revoked, and he was ordered to serve the remaining two years of his suspended sentence. The defendant appealed, arguing that CGS § 14-215(c) was unconstitutionally vague with respect to application to ATV usage. As he emphasized, “a person of ordinary intelligence could not reasonably have been expected to know that the term ‘motor vehicle’ included an ATV.”

Everyone is presumed to know the law, and ignorance is no excuse from criminal punishment. However, laws must be drafted so that “ordinary people understand what conduct is prohibited and in a manner that does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” So long as the meaning of the statute can be fairly ascertained, it won’t be struck down as void for vagueness. In this case, the burden rested with the defendant to “demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that [CGS § 14-215(c)], as applied to him, deprived him of adequate notice of what conduct the statute proscribed or that he fell victim to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”

CGS § 14-215(c) makes it a crime for a person to operate a motor vehicle while their driver’s license is under suspension. This statute is located in Chapter 248, which defines “motor vehicle” as including “all vehicles used on public highways.” In CGS § 14-212(9), “vehicle” is synonymous with “motor vehicle,” so the Supreme Court opined that if an ATV qualifies as a vehicle, it is a motor vehicle for purposes of the suspension law. The Court considered the definitions of ATV under other statutes, which use the language “a self-propelled vehicle” and “motorized vehicle.” CGS §§ 14-379 and 23-26a. Thus, for purposes of CGS § 14-215(c), an ATV was a motor vehicle when used on a public highway.

With this statutory framework in mind, the Supreme Court determined that the defendant failed to meet his burden. Rather, CGS § 14-215(c) “affords a person of ordinary intelligence with fair warning that he is prohibited from operating an ATV on a public highway while his license is suspended.” The Court found that the statute was not unconstitutionally vague, and the trial court did not err in revoking the defendant’s probation.

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

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