Posts tagged with "reckless driving"

Division to Petitioner: “No Good Reason” for Sentence Reduction

Superior Court of Connecticut: Sentencing Review Division (Division)

In a criminal law matter involving a sentence reduction, the Sentencing Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to reduce the sentence of a petitioner who claimed it was inappropriate and disproportionate.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on September 23, 1999. The petitioner was driving his car when he began racing a second vehicle at speeds in excess of 100mph. The second vehicle crashed into a traveling motorcycle, resulting in the death of both vehicles’ passengers. In addition, the motorcyclist required a leg amputation. Meanwhile, the petitioner continued driving until he experienced a flat tire, at which point he walked back to the scene of the accident and was arrested.

Counts of Conviction

The petitioner was charged and convicted, following a jury trial, of the following counts:

  1. Third-degree reckless assault: mandatory one year in jail.
  2. Misconduct with a motor vehicle (two counts): maximum of five years of incarceration.
  3. Reckless driving: maximum one year in jail for subsequent offenders.
  4. Illegal racing: maximum one year in jail.

The petitioner was sentenced to twelve years of incarceration. Following an unsuccessful appeal, he pursued a reduced sentence of eight years, arguing that it was the average sentence for those convicted of similar offenses. He claimed that his sentence, “being higher than the average, is therefore ‘inappropriate’ or ‘disproportionate.” The State vehemently opposed, pointing to the petitioner’s: history of speeding violations, including one between the time of this offense and his sentencing; denial of responsibility; failure to show genuine remorse; history of behavioral problems; and the suffering inflicted on the families of the victims.

Connecticut Practice Book § 43-28

Under Connecticut Practice Book § 43-28, one will find the statutory limitations of the Division’s authority to modify criminal sentences to those that are inappropriate or disproportionate. When making this determination, the Division will consider: “the nature of the offense, the character of the offender, the protection of the public interest, the deterrent, rehabilitative, isolative, and denunciatory purposes for which the sentence was intended.” In this case, the Division considered these factors and affirmed the sentence, noting that there was “no good reason to reduce the sentence imposed by the trial court.”

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.

Defendant’s Reckless Driving Conviction Was Not Inconsistent With Acquittal for Risk of Injury Due to Unique Criminal Elements

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected a defendant’s claim that his conviction for reckless driving was inconsistent with his acquittal for risk of injury to a child.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the afternoon of February 10, 2007. A citizen was idling in her car at a red light, with minor children passengers, when she observed the defendant rapidly approaching her from behind in his car. He stopped within close proximity and began “honking his horn… flashing his lights and revving his car while using hand gestures urging her to proceed.” When the citizen pointed to the red light, the defendant drove his car into hers and pushed it into the middle of the intersection before proceeding past her vehicle. A passenger wrote down the license plate, which was supplied to police.

The defendant was arrested and charged with multiple counts, including reckless driving and risk of injury to a child, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 14-222 and 53-21. He was convicted of the former but acquitted on the latter and following sentencing the defendant appealed. He argued that there was insufficient evidence of reckless driving, and that the conviction was inconsistent with his acquittal on risk of injury to a child.

To be convicted of reckless driving, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated a motor vehicle on a public highway, “having regard to the width, traffic and use of such highway… at such a rate of speed as to endanger the life of any person other than the operator of such motor vehicle.” Conversely, for risk of injury to a child, the State must instead prove that the defendant “willfully or unlawfully causes or permits any child under the age of sixteen years to be placed in such a situation that the life or limb of such child is endangered.”

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that there was sufficient evidence of reckless driving, based on the testimony of the witness describing the events that occurred. As the ultimate arbiter of credibility, the court was free to believe this testimony, in whole or in part, and in so doing had sufficient evidence to convict. In addition, the Appellate Court stated that the conviction and acquittal were not inconsistent. In a Supreme Court of Connecticut decision in 2000, the Court stated, “If the offenses charged contain different elements, then a conviction of one offense is not inconsistent on its face with an acquittal of the other.” Looking to the elements of each crime, each offense contains unique elements not found in the other, and as the results were not inconsistent. Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

When faced with a charge of reckless driving, 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 Considers Whether Reckless Driving Conviction Was Proper Under Revised Charge

In “Whether Driver Intended to Hit Victim or Not, It Was Still an Accident Under Connecticut’s Evading Responsibility Statute,” we learned that the intent of the defendant was not relevant to the meaning of “accident” for purposes of the evading responsibility statute. Regardless of which story the jury chose to believe, there was sufficient evidence that the defendant unintentionally struck the victim with his car.

This article focuses on whether or not the defendant succeeded on his claim that the trial court erred in denying his post-conviction motion on the charge of reckless driving. For an individual to be convicted of reckless driving in violation of General Statutes § 14-222(a), the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant drove in a reckless manner on highways, roads, school properties, and parking areas. However, in its substitute information, the State charged the defendant with reckless driving on a municipal road. As a result, the judge specifically instructed the jury, “In order for you to find the defendant guilty of reckless driving, the state must prove that… the defendant operated a motor vehicle on a municipal road…”

During the trial, the State offered an aerial map of the city in which the accident occurred, but this map did not indicate “what entity owned or maintained the streets it depicted, or whether the streets are private or open to the public.” In addition, there was no information on the map that would assist the jury with inferring such facts. Additional officer testimony left in question who maintained the road on which the accident occurred.

On appeal, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on the revised charge of reckless driving, and the Appellate Court agreed. “The record… does not contain any evidence from which the jury, without resorting to speculation and conjecture, could infer that [the one-way street] was a municipal road.” Therefore, the Court found the trial court improperly denied the defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal and reversed the reckless driving conviction.

When faced with a charge of evading responsibility or reckless driving, 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.

Whether Driver Intended to Hit Victim or Not, It Was Still an Accident Under Connecticut’s Evading Responsibility Statute

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed in part and reversed in part a trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal following his conviction on evading responsibility and reckless driving. This story focuses on the first charge.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on August 23, 2007. The defendant struck the victim while traveling in the wrong direction on the one-way portion of a street, but did not stop to render any assistance. The defendant was located a short distance away and subsequently charged with evading responsibility, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle the wrong direction on a one-way street. At trial, the State argued that the defendant intentionally drove his car into the victim, but the defendant countered that he never intended to strike the victim. Rather, he claimed that he “did so unintentionally after the victim leaped in front of his vehicle while he was attempting to drive past the victim.”

The defendant was convicted on all counts, but filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal, alleging insufficient evidence to prove that he evaded responsibility. He argued that “the term accident, as it is used in § 14-224(b), encompasses only unintentional conduct.” The motion was denied, and the defendant appealed.

To convict an individual of evading responsibility under General Statutes § 14-224(a), the State must prove “(1) the defendant was operating the motor vehicle, (2) the defendant was knowingly involved in an accident… (3) that accident caused the death or serious physical injury of any other person… [and] (4) that the defendant failed to stop at once to render such assistance as may have been needed…” This statute does not provide a definition of “accident.” In a previous case, the Appellate Court of Connecticut was presented with a factually similar scenario, but found “no reason to define the term ‘accident’ in § 14-224, as there [was] sufficient in the record to support the jury’s verdict under any definition of the term.”

In this case, the Appellate Court held the same conclusion and affirmed the defendant’s conviction for evading responsibility. It explained, “There was sufficient evidence in the record for the jury to conclude that the collision was the result of unintentional conduct on part of the defendant, thereby constituting an accident under any definition of the term.” The State satisfied its evidentiary burden beyond a reasonable doubt, and the Court upheld the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion with respect to this charge.

For the Appellate Court’s determination with respect to the reckless driving charge, please read “Court Considers Whether Reckless Driving Conviction Was Proper Under Revised Charge.”

When faced with a charge of evading responsibility or reckless driving, 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.

Sentence Imposed was “Fully Merited, Appropriate, and Proportionate,” Division Denies Modification

In a recent criminal law matter, the Sentencing Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to reduce the sentence of a petitioner because the sentence was not inappropriate or disproportionate.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on June 27, 2007. The victim was arriving at her home when she saw the petitioner, who she did not know, run out of her house and promptly drive away. Police located the petitioner, but he would not stop and led them on a high-speed chase before escaping. However, he was tracked down and arrested the next day.

The petitioner was charged and convicted, following a jury trial, of the following counts:

  1. Burglary (Third Degree): maximum of five years of incarceration. If Persistent Serious Felony Offender, then maximum of ten years of incarceration.
  2. Criminal Mischief (Third Degree): maximum of six months in jail.
  3. Engaging Police in Pursuit: maximum one year in jail.
  4. Evading Responsibility: minimum of one year in jail, maximum of five years of incarceration.
  5. Reckless Driving: maximum of thirty days in jail.

Because of his lengthy criminal record and lack of remorse or acceptance of responsibility, the petitioner was sentenced to a total of twelve years of incarceration. He sought a reduced sentence, arguing that he should “not be penalized for exercising his right to a jury trial” and that he deserved a credit for admitting to being a Persistent Serious Felony Offender.

The Division is very limited statutorily in their modification authority to sentences that are “inappropriate” or “disproportionate.” Upon review of this case, the Division believed that the trial court imposed a proper sentence, and noted that there was nothing in the record indicating the petitioner was penalized for going to trial. Rather, “[t]he sentence imposed is fully merited, appropriate and proportionate.” Therefore, the sentence was affirmed.

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.