Posts tagged with "waiver"

Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Denied, as DUI Convict’s Claims Lacked Merit

In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut considered a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, in which the petitioner claimed that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of DUI and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on the evening of December 24, 2005. State troopers on routine patrol observed the petitioner driving his vehicle erratically and initiated a traffic stop. The petitioner admitted that he consumed a few beers, but would not answer any follow-up questions. He smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and glassy eyes, and had trouble handling his license and papers. Because the petitioner had one leg, troopers could only administer the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, which the petitioner failed. He was arrested and transported to barracks, where he was belligerent and argumentative. In the processing room, the petitioner was seen slumped over his chair.

The petitioner was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 14-227a(a)(1). At trial, he was represented by the Chief Public Defender, a veteran in the practice of law. The petitioner wanted a bench trial for reasons of expediency, even though defense counsel both advised against this decision and explained the ramifications of waiver. In formulating a defense strategy, counsel chose to minimize the testimony regarding the HGN test. He was not convinced that asserting a head injury would discredit such testimony, and felt a motion to suppress would be unsuccessful. Defense counsel robustly cross-examined all of the troopers, and the petitioner agreed to testify on his own behalf regarding his head injury.

Nonetheless, the petitioner was convicted of OMVUI and sentenced to two years incarceration, one year probation, and 500 hours of community service. However, he did not appeal his decision and instead filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of OMVUI, that his constitutional right to a jury trial was violated, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, among other claims.

In a bench ruling, the Superior Court was not persuaded by any of the petitioner’s claims and denied his petition. It noted that even absent the HGN test evidence, there was sufficient evidence to prove the petitioner committed OMVUI. The petitioner knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial: indeed, it was the petitioner who insisted on a bench trial, and defense counsel properly explained the consequences of going this route. Finally, the Court believed that petitioner failed to prove the existence of deficient performance by counsel and prejudice in the outcome of his case. Defense counsel employed sound trial strategy and zealously advocated on behalf of his client. As the Court explained, “An analysis of the record below indicates an experienced trial attorney who was not successful when faced with a strong case presented by the state.”

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

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Superior Court Denies Motions to Suppress in DUI Case, Finding Defendant’s Constitutional Rights Were Not Violated

This case arose from an incident that occurred on April 6, 2008. A police officer received word from dispatch that a restaurant drive-thru employee called in to report a customer, the defendant, who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. The officer was given specific information about the vehicle and told that this was the third such report received. The officer promptly located the defendant’s vehicle and initiated a traffic stop.

When the officer approached the vehicle, he observed beer cans on the back floor of the defendant’s car in plain sight. Some of these were empty, and all were seized as evidence. After additional officers arrived on the scene, they conducted field sobriety tests and then arrested the defendant and brought her to police headquarters. There, the officers advised the defendant of her Miranda rights and had her review a Notice of Rights form, which included information regarding implied consent and the chemical alcohol test refusal. The defendant was told she could call an attorney, but she was unable to successfully make contact with one. After fifteen minutes passed, officers advised the defendant that she had to decide whether or not to take the test, so she refused.

The defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol in violation of General Statutes § 14-227a. She moved to suppress statements she made as well as evidence collected from the motor vehicle stop and during a search of her car. In support of her motions, the defendant argued that police violated her rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures, and generally police must have a warrant to conduct a search. However, there are four recognized, narrow exceptions where the warrantless search of a vehicle is reasonable, including “when there was probable cause to believe that the car contained contraband or evidence pertaining to a crime.” Officers may seize contraband that it finds in plain view, and “such observations give rise to probable cause justifying a search of the vehicle.”

The Fifth Amendment, in part, prohibits compelled self-incrimination. The well-known recitation of Miranda warnings stem from the construction of this Amendment, and two conditions are required before an officer must invoke this warning: custody and interrogation. Waiver of Miranda rights must be made knowingly and voluntarily, which must be proven by the State by the preponderance of the evidence.

Under Connecticut law, in an action where a defendant is charged with OMVUI, the jury may draw permissive inferences from the fact that the defendant refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. In addition, identifiable citizen informants are presumptively reliable, and officers are justified when they assume that the informant is providing truthful information. Because of the pervasive state interest in preventing drunk driving, officers do not have to wait for the defendant to drive erratically or cause an accident before pulling them over.

In this case, the Superior Court of Connecticut adjudicating the case denied all of the defendant’s motions. It found that police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop the defendant, based on the information provided by the restaurant employee, an identifiable citizen informant. The seizure of the beer cans, which were in plain view, was permissible. In addition, because there was no interrogation at the police station, the defendant was not compelled to incriminate herself. Rather, pursuant to General Statutes § 14-227b(b), police officers have the explicit authority to request that a defendant arrested for OMVUI sub

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

Third Parties Are Not Bound to Automatic Orders Pursuant to a Dissolution Action

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Earlier this year, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk at Stamford considered a case of first impression regarding whether third parties are bound to automatic orders pursuant to a dissolution action. In this case, the plaintiff’s former wife commenced a dissolution action, and automatic orders were attached to the complaint, including one which prohibits the encumbrance of property without consent of the other party or by judicial order. However, in direct violation of the orders, the plaintiff’s wife executed and delivered two mortgages on the marital home to the defendant. Four years later, the plaintiff entered into a written contract to sell the home. When the plaintiff demanded that the defendant release the mortgages, the defendant refused and this lawsuit commenced.

The Superior Court stated that mortgages clearly constituted “encumbrances” under the Connecticut Practice Book Rule 25-5 (hereinafter Rule), but the Rule and the General Statutes were silent as to whether or not the law imposed a duty on third parties to follow the requirements of the Rule. After considering the intent of the legislature, the Court stated that nothing expressly imposed a duty on third parties to take notice of or abide by the prohibitions contained in the Rule. By extension, it was fair to infer that automatic orders were designed to control the conduct of the parties involved, not third parties. The Court noted that a mortgagee’s due process rights could be violated if his or her interests were invalidated by an automatic order pursuant to a dissolution action, and the mortgagee, without power to intervene, was nonetheless bound by the final ruling.

The Court stated an additional ground for why the Rule did not invalidate the defendant’s mortgages. On multiple occasions, the plaintiff acknowledged the mortgages and reiterated his recognition of his wife’s obligation to pay. Despite having an opportunity to respond to the defendant’s special defenses alleging waiver, the plaintiff failed to do so. The plaintiff’s prior conduct amounted to a waiver, or an intentional relinquishment of a known right. Therefore, the Superior Court ruled that the automatic orders did not invalidate the defendant’s mortgages. Furthermore, it held that the plaintiff waived his right to assert invalidity of the mortgages, and his additional claims of tortuous interference with his contract to sell the home and slander of title were unsupported.

Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, 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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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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Father Not Denied Right to Counsel in Pro-Se Termination Proceedings

In an appellate decision released last month, the court found that the petitioner was not deprived of his right to counsel during termination proceedings because he intelligently and voluntarily waived this right. The respondent father and his child’s mother had a tumultuous relationship that included a history of domestic violence. While pregnant, the mother had practically no prenatal care and abused drugs and alcohol. She went into premature labor in April 2008, and several days after giving birth to their child, the petitioner, the commissioner of children and families (commissioner), removed the child under an order of temporary custody. In August 2009, the minor child was declared neglected, and the commissioner submitted a petition to terminate parental rights, citing failure to rehabilitate, abandonment, and the non-existence of an ongoing child-parent relationship between the father and child.

At the preliminary hearing held in April 2010, the court-appointed attorney requested to withdraw from the case due to a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship. The court advised the father that it was in his best interest to have an attorney, but the father clearly stated he did not want counsel appointed for him. He filed a pro se appearance, though stated he might hire outside counsel. At a hearing ten days later, the father again declined the court’s offer to appoint counsel, though he was given standby counsel during a June 2010 hearing. The father did not make it clear whether he wanted this attorney to handle the case, instead asserting he would remain a self-represented party. At a September 2010 hearing, the father offered a conditional possibility that he might ask the standby attorney to represent him, but never revoked his right to self-representation. At the first day of trial, the father stated he could not handle the matter by himself and asked for a two- or three-month continuance so the standby attorney could prepare his case. The court denied this request, and upon completion of the trial, the court granted the commissioner’s motion to terminate parental rights.

In the State of Connecticut, courts must advise parties of their right to counsel when they first appear without counsel during termination proceedings. Upon request, the court will appoint counsel if the party cannot afford one, but a party cannot waive this right unless the court first explains “the nature and meaning of a petition for the termination of parental rights.” In other words, the party must fully understand the ramifications of self-representation, and must affirmatively and expressly relinquish the right to counsel. The court record must show that the party was “literate, competent, and understanding, and that he… voluntarily exercis[ed] his informed free will.” Once a right is waived, it cannot be regained by revoking the waiver. The right to counsel cannot be abused as a way of interfering with the fair administration of justice, including causing unwarranted delays.

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that the father was not denied his right to counsel, since he intelligently and voluntarily waived this right. It pointed to the repeated attempts by the lower court to appoint counsel and the father’s continuous refusals. At the preliminary hearing, the court properly advised the father of his rights and asked whether he understood them, to which he responded in the affirmative. In addition, the court determined that there was no abuse of discretion when the trial court denied the father’s request for a continuance, noting significant delays that had already taken place, which have a significant impact in child-related matters. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment.

Whether advancing or defending a post-judgment motion regarding parental rights, a parent is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, 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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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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