Posts tagged with "reasonable person"

Convict Unsuccessfully Argues that Spitting Does Not Constitute Breach of Peace

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut held that a trial court did not err in denying a defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal, as spitting qualifies for the requisite act for a breach of peace.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on December 1, 2005. Following an alleged robbery, the defendant was transported to the hospital after complaining about injuries. He was partially restrained to a gurney and under police guard. He repeatedly threatened an emergency room nurse and, while being discharged, he spat in the nurse’s face.

The defendant was charged with and convicted of breach of peace in the second degree, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-181(a)(1) and (5). He twice moved for a judgment of acquittal, which the court denied. On appeal, the defendant argued that “spitting is not a violent behavior and, because he was strapped to the gurney, he could not engage in violent of tumultuous behavior.”

What is Considered Breach of Peace?

A person commits second-degree breach of peace “when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person: (1) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior in a public place.” The language of § 53a-181(a)(1) shows that the legislature intended to prohibit any conduct that involves either actual physical violence or the threat of physical violence. Because spitting involves applying force to a victim’s body, it qualifies as a physical act.

The Appellate Court further noted that the words “inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” encompass conduct that a reasonable person would perceive to be as such in light of generally accepted community standards. The highly unsanitary act of one person spitting on another “is almost universally acknowledged as contemptuous and is calculated to incite others to act in retaliation.” As such, it was reasonable for a jury to conclude that the elements of breach of peace were satisfied.

When faced with a charge of breach of peace or assault, 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.

Defendant’s Conviction for Misconduct with a Motor Vehicle Upheld; Sufficient Evidence to Establish Requisite Mental State

In a criminal law matter decided this month, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conviction for misconduct with a motor vehicle, finding sufficient evidence to convict and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting potentially prejudicial evidence.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the night of December 2, 2007. Despite snow and freezing rain that day, the defendant drove with his friends to an unplowed parking lot after dinner and performed a “donut” around a light pole. Afterward, he traveled along a road where passing was not permitted, the speed limit was 45mph, and there was only one travel lane in each direction. The defendant attempted to pass a slow-moving vehicle but lost control of the vehicle. The car veered off the road and two passengers were ejected, one sustaining head injuries that led to his death.

The defendant was charged with second-degree manslaughter, third-degree assault, and reckless driving. As an alternative to the manslaughter charge, the court charged the jury with lesser included offenses, including misconduct with a motor vehicle. Defense counsel filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude testimony regarding the donut. He argued that the evidence was not relevant, involved uncharged misconduct, and the potential for prejudice far outweighed its probative value. The State countered that because the donut was performed shortly before the accident, it was probative and relevant to mental state, and served as evidence that the defendant was aware of the poor driving conditions. The trial court denied the motion, stating, “[W]hat happened a matter of minutes before the actual incident is part and parcel of the incident itself.”

The defendant was found guilty of reckless driving and misconduct with a motor vehicle, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) §§ 14-222(a) and 53a-57(a). He appealed his conviction, arguing that the State provided insufficient evidence of the requisite mental state for misconduct with a motor vehicle, and the court improperly allowed evidence of the donut into the record.

A criminal defendant is guilty of misconduct with a motor vehicle if the State proves that he caused the death of another person through criminally negligent operation of his motor vehicle.

A person acts with “criminal negligence” with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation… (CGS § 53a-3 (14))

A defendant does not have to be speeding in his vehicle to violate CGS § 53a-57(a). Relevant evidence makes a material fact more or less probable than it would be without such evidence. Even if relevant, evidence may be excluded where its probative value is outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice. However, mere prejudice is not enough, because “[a]ll adverse evidence is damaging to one’s case.”

In this case, the Appellate Court was not persuaded by the defendant’s arguments. It found that there was ample evidence that the defendant operated his vehicle in a criminally negligent behavior, and that he was not speeding at the time was not dispositive. Furthermore, the Court agreed that the evidence was relevant, and the probative value outweighed the danger of undue prejudice. Its admission as evidence was not an abuse of discretion by the trial court. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of reckless driving or misconduct with a motor vehicle, 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.