Posts tagged with "stolen"

Stolen Dealer Plates Found Relevant and Probative in Vehicle Retagging Scheme

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conspiracy and larceny convictions, finding that evidence of stolen dealer plates was properly admitted.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on February 4, 2008. Months before, state police began investigating an operation where vehicles stolen in New York were “retagged” and sold in Connecticut. A detective went undercover posing as a buyer and agreed to purchase two stolen vehicles for $20,500. The defendant was present when dealer plates belonging to his previous employer were attached to one car, and he drove the second vehicle to the exchange point in Fairfield. Police moved in and arrested the defendant and several other individuals involved. Troopers observed materials used in the retagging process on the defendant’s person, as well as inside nearby vehicles driven by coconspirators.

The defendant was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree and two counts of larceny in the first degree. Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion seeking to exclude evidence of the stolen dealer plates. He argued that it was irrelevant, and the probative value, if any, was far outweighed by the prejudicial effect it would have on the jury. The State countered that such evidence went to intent and to show the defendant was a knowing participant in the conspiracy rather than an unwitting passenger.

The court allowed the evidence and attendant testimony, noting it was relevant to a material fact in the case. Thus, for example, a detective “opined that, based on her training and experience, a former employee would have better access than a stranger to the dealer plates because of his familiarity with the dealership and the knowledge of its layout.” The defendant was subsequently found guilty on all counts and appealed his convictions, arguing that evidence of the dealer plates was improperly admitted because it was not relevant, and alternatively that it was unfairly prejudicial.

To convict a defendant of conspiracy under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-48, the State must show that an agreement to commit a crime was made between two or more people, one of whom acts overtly to further the conspiracy. This is a specific intent crime, and the State must prove that the conspirators “intended to agree and that they intended to commit the elements of the underlying offense.” Because it is difficult to ascertain a person’s subjective intent, it is often inferred from circumstantial evidence and rational inferences. Evidence is relevant so long as it has a “logical tendency to aid [the judge or jury] in the determination of an issue” to even the slightest degree, so long as it is not unduly prejudicial or merely cumulative.

In this case, the Appellate Court found that the dealer plates “had a logical tendency to show a connection between the defendant and the larcenous scheme,” as well as the requisite intent to commit conspiracy to commit larceny. Indeed, this evidence countered the defendant’s assertion that he was an innocent bystander. While the evidence itself might have been weak, this was an issue of its weight, not its relevance. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing it.

There are many grounds for excluding relevant evidence, such as the risk of unfair prejudice. Naturally, all evidence against the defendant is damaging and thus prejudicial, so the appropriate inquiry is whether the proffered evidence will “improperly arouse the emotions of the jury.” In this case, the defendant argued that the jury may have concluded that the dealer plates, which belonged to his previous employer, were stolen, a fact which they would then impermissibly use to infer he committed the presently charged offenses. The Appellate Court stated that while such impermissible inferences may have been drawn, the trial court has broad discretion in weighing the probative value versus prejudicial impact, a decision reversible only upon showing an abuse of discretion or manifest injustice. Based on the facts of this case, the Court could not conclude that the trial court abused its discretion; therefore, the defendant’s claims on appeal failed.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or attempt, 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.

Where Handgun Was Stolen During Burglary, Handcuffing Suspect Prior to Pat Down Was Reasonable

In the previous article, “In Light of Reasonable Suspicion, Police Properly Detained Burglary Suspect,” the defendant unsuccessfully argued that police did not have reasonable or articulable suspicion to detain him. He also argued on appeal that the officer’s actions at the time of his detention were extreme and thus improper from the beginning of the stop.

When police detained the defendant, they immediately handcuffed him “for his and the officer’s safety.” At the suppression hearing, officers testified that they knew a handgun had been stolen during a previous burglary. As described during his testimony, an officer explained that, in light of this knowledge, “he ordered the defendant to remove his hands from his sweatshirt ‘[t]o make sure that he didn’t have a gun in his hand.’”

Police officers do not have the authority to detain and search every person they see on the street, but must have proper grounds to do so. Such a justification is a self-protective search for weapons, and the officer “must be able to point to particular facts from which he reasonably inferred that the individual was armed and dangerous.” Notably, an officer need not be certain that the individual is carrying a firearm. Instead, the question comes down to “whether a reasonably prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that of others was in danger.”

In this case, the Appellate Court of Connecticut credited the officer’s testimony. A handgun had been stolen during a burglary, and the suspect’s description matched the defendant’s appearance. In addition, the decision to order the defendant to remove his hands was based on this knowledge and was not arbitrary. Under these circumstances, “the police acted pursuant to a reasonably prudent belief that their safety and the safety of others—including the defendant—was in danger.” Therefore, the officers were justified and acted reasonably by patting down the defendant while he was handcuffed.

When faced with a charge of larceny or burglary, 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.

In Case Where Employee Abused Her Position to Embezzle Substantial Funds, Modification of Sentence Was Denied

In a recent criminal law matter, the Sentence Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut affirmed the sentence of a petitioner who stole money from her employer.

In this case, the petitioner had a criminal history involving embezzlement, larceny, forgery, and substance abuse. Despite knowledge of this past, the director of a non-profit organization hired the petitioner as its bookkeeper and office manager to give her a chance at an honest living. In this position, the petitioner had “unfettered access” to financial accounts belonging to the organization and director. Subsequently, various employees at the organization complained they were not being timely paid, and the director discovered not just an IRS tax lien on the organization’s assets, but a $20,000 unauthorized withdrawal from her personal account. Police investigated these financial irregularities and questioned the petitioner, and found that she had stolen at least $134,000.

At trial for larceny in the first degree, the defendant entered into a guilty plea. She asked that her sentence be fully suspended and she be allowed to participate in an alternative to incarceration plan, but the court instead imposed twelve years of incarceration. The petitioner sought downward modification, arguing that her sentence was inappropriate and disproportionate compared to those who committed similar crimes. She asserted that she “cooperated with the police investigation, [was] contrite, willing to make restitution and was employed at the time of sentencing.”

The State opposed modification due to the defendant’s history of committing similar crimes. It noted how the defendant embezzled funds from a former employer, for which she received a five-year suspended sentence, and then violated her probation. The organization’s director also objected, stating that the sentence was proper because the petitioner “abused her position of trust, is unrepentant, and has caused a great deal of suffering.” The Division declined to reduce the sentence, finding that under applicable statutes, it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate. Indeed, the twelve-year sentence was within the parameters of the guilty plea, and the Division agreed with the trial court that “[i]t would stand justice on its head if I were to give you another suspended sentence after you already had one.”

When faced with a charge of larceny, 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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