Category Archives: ct state law

An idle thought on the Boykin canvass

Much as been written and said about Boykin v. Alabama since Justice Douglas wrote the decision in 1969. At best, it is a necessary safeguard to ensure that guily pleas, the bulk of the resolutions in the criminal justice system, are made voluntarily. At worst, it is a prophylactic.

A defendant entering a guilty plea waives several fundamental constitutional rights. Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 243 (1969). “We therefore require the record affirmatively to disclose that the defendant’s choice was made intelligently and voluntarily.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Andrews, supra, 253 Conn. 503. To satisfy that requirement, a defendant must be fully aware of the direct consequences of his or her plea. See Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 755 (1970). Direct consequences are generally defined as consequences that are “definite, immediate and [that have] largely automatic effect[s] on the range of the defendant’s punishment.” Cuthrell v. Director, 475 F.2d 1364, 1366 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1005 (1973).

State v. Groppi. The Boykin canvas is limited to three Constitutional aspects: First, is the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination.. . [s]econd, is the right to trial by jury… [t]hird, is the right to confront one’s accusers.’ Boykin v. Alabama, [supra].

In fact, the Boykin canvass is now part of most state statutes or rules of court. Here, in CT, it is codified in Conn. Prac. Bk. S. 39-19, which provides:

The judicial authority shall not accept the plea without first addressing the defendant personally and determining that he or she fully understands:

  1. The nature of the charge to which the plea is offered;
  2. The mandatory minimum sentence, if any;
  3. The fact that the statute for the particular offense does not permit the sentence to be suspended;
  4. The maximum possible sentence on the charge, including, if there are several charges, the maximum sentence possible from consecutive sentences and including, when applicable, the fact that a different or additional punishment may be authorized by reason of a previous conviction; and
  5. The fact that he or she has the right to plead not guilty or to persist in that plea if it has already been made, and the fact that he or she has the right to be tried by a jury or a judge and that at that trial the defendant has the right to the assistance of counsel, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against him or her, and the right not to be compelled to incriminate himself or herself.

But even there, strict compliance is not required:

Come with me…to jail for 20 years: an alien abduction

It seems that the Supreme Court of the good state of Connecticut (SCOC, which you may pronounce S-Coc if you so please) is having fits. Specifically fits with our kidnapping statutes. Almost from the day they, in a moment of rare weakness, decided to bring some sanity back to the overbroad application of the statute, they’ve been backpedaling furiously, as if to atone for their one sin.

In that original decision, they decided – rightly in my opinion – that kidnapping is more than just mere restraint required for the commission of another felony. So if I held you down and forced you to read this post, I’d be guilty of torture, but not kidnapping.

Then they tinkered with the remedy, because how could one justify letting defendants go? Of course you can’t.

And now, this past week, comes the granddaddy of them all: State v. Winot (leave the why not? jokes for later, please).

This is a case that has been two years in the making. It was argued in January of 2008. Yes, that’s TWO-THOUSAND-EIGHT. And what perplexed them so? Judging by the decision, the vexing question was how to uphold this conviction with a straight face. 730 days later, I don’t think they’ve managed it.

The facts

She began to walk faster, but the defendant forcibly took her right arm. When she asked him to let go, he refused, yelling, ‘[n]o, it’s too wet out here;  you’re getting in my car today.’ He tried to pull her toward his car, but she resisted, pulling back in the opposite direction. To get him to release her,  the victim then leaned over to bite the defendant, at which point he quickly let go and rushed back to his car. In doing so, the defendant was almost hit by a maroon car. Upon being released, the victim ran home and told her mother what had transpired. The entire incident lasted only a  few seconds.

That’s less time than it took you to read that first sentence. He took her right arm, she pretended to bite him, he let go. A matter of seconds. Got that?

The challenge

The Adam Walsh fearmongering and bleeding money Act

I have been in somewhat of a blog slumber. I haven’t posted in a while (and frankly, since Scott returned from his vacation, there’s no more opportunity for me to sneak in and steal his readers). But what better way to get the blood pumping and the vituperative juices returning than the news that our state Republicans and lame-duck Governor are once again introducing the Adam Walsh “burn them at the stake” Act.

I wouldn’t recommend clicking on that link. The Act is long and is sure to get your delicates in a delicate twist (unless you’re a terrorist, in which case, you win).

I’ve already written about one nonsensical aspect of this “Act” before: on the requirement that travelers through the State notify public safety of their impending passage.

There are several more that merit attention and derision, so I’ll list them first and then take them on one by one:

  1. The Act creates a new “tiered” system of SORN (sex offender registration and notification), dividing defendants not on their chances of re-offending, or on the particular circumstances of their offenses, but simply on the offense of conviction itself: Tier A: 15 years, Tier B: 25 years, Tier C: life. Currently, in CT, there are only two “tiers”: 10 years and life. Risk assessment is simply not a factor in either equation and that’s a huge mistake.
  2. The current risk of injury statute, the go-to statute for dubious allegations involving minors, would be revamped and broken up into three different statutes, each more onerous than the previous. Sexual contact with a minor under thirteen would become a Class A felony, thus lumping it together with the burglaries home invasions and murders and sexual contact with someone between thirteen and sixteen would become a Class B felony.
  3. The rules for exemption from registration are putrid and hollow.
  4. The registration requirements place a burden that is far greater than was approved by SCOTUS in Alaska and CT Dept. of Pub Safety (as distinguished by Maine’s Supreme Court): once a year for Tier 1, every 6 months for Tier 2 and every 3 months for Tier 3, all in person.
  5. The requirements for “transients” are incredibly laughable and courts are taking notice of the fact that it is problematic to require homeless people to register and punish them for essentially not having a home.
  6. The retroactive application of the registration requirements, which are already being successfully challenged.
  7. The cost. Oh, the cost. It shall be staggering. It shall be wasteful. It shall be just what States need in this time of financial surplus.

The seventh point is the focus of this post, which is one more step toward a Big Brother/nanny state:

Bysiewicz as AG: I hate to say it

but I told you so. Leaving aside the “does she have 10 years’ active practice” kerfuffle for a moment, I just want to give you all this moment to recognize that, well, I was right (or at the very least that the current AG agrees with me).

The long-awaited “formal opinion” from our soon to be Senator Blumenthal was issued today at 1pm. You can read it here or view the pdf here.

The opinion hits all the usual points in construing the constitutionality of a statute:

“[l]egislation is presumed to be constitutional, and a litigant challenging its validity has the heavy burden to establish its unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt.” Batte-Holmgren v. Commissioner of Public Health, 281 Conn. 277, 299 n. 12 (2007); see also Honulik v. Greenwich, 293 Conn. 641, 647 (2009). “The court will indulge every presumption in favor of the statute’s constitutionality.” State v. Long, 268 Conn. 508, 521 (2004). “Therefore, ‘when a question of constitutionality is raised, courts must approach it with caution, examine it with care, and sustain the legislation unless its invalidity is clear.’” Id. at 521, quoting State v. McCahill, 261 Conn. 492, 504 (2002). Thus, a court faced with the question whether Conn. Gen. Stat. § 3-124 is constitutional will start with the presumption that it is. “In case of real doubt a law must be sustained.” Honulik, 293 Conn. at 647.

Does the fact that the AG statute existed for close to 70 years prior to the Constitutional amendment have any bearing on it’s constitutionality? Uh, yeah:

Similarly, in 1970, when the 1965 constitution was amended to add the Attorney General as a constitutional officer, the amendment was not adopted in a vacuum, but rather built upon an extensive and long-standing statutory scheme governing the Office of Attorney General. As noted above, the Office of Attorney General was created by statute in 1897.

Over the next seventy years, the statutory qualifications for the Office of Attorney General as “an elector of this State, and an attorney at law of at least ten years’ active practice at the bar of this state” remained unchanged, while the duties of the office grew substantially.4 In 1969, recognizing the heightened importance of the office, the General Assembly introduced House Joint Resolution No. 95, which amended the state constitution to add the Attorney General as a constitutional officer.

And what of that pesky Constitutional Amendment with its sparse language? Well, I cautioned people way back when that the Amendment merely spoke to the age at which a person could hold statewide office and did nothing to change the requirement that someone who was AG had to be a lawyer. I made the point that had the General Assembly wished to remove the requirement that the AG be a lawyer, it could very easily have done so:

Does the client have a right to discovery?

A number of changes to the Practice Book went into effect on January 1, 2010 here in CT. Of particular importance to this blog and criminal defense practitioners in the State are the changes to the discovery rules.

The regular discovery section was amended to add the following language:

Without the prior approval of the prosecuting authority or the court, defense counsel and his or her agents shall not provide copies of materials disclosed pursuant to Section 40 -13A to any person except to persons employed by defense counsel in connection with the investigation or defense of the case.

Note the use of the very specific “defense counsel”. Most criminal practice book provisions use the phrase “the defendant” as a substitute for either the defendant himself or his lawyer. But the use of “defense counsel” is particularly notable. The section seeks to exclude the defendant himself from possession copies of police reports, statements, affidavits, etc.

The only way for the defendant himself to get copies is through the permission of the prosecutor or the court. And even then, I suspect (as is the practice for many defense lawyers) they would require that names and addresses be redacted.

The changes to the section were actually agreed upon by a joint task force, comprising prosecutors and defense attorneys. The “compromise” was a much expanded discovery provision, making disclosure of all statements, affidavits and reports mandatory upon written request by the defense.

Is the Attorney General statute unconstitutional?

Grumpy Kid

Creative Commons License photo credit: sokabs

You’ve heard by now, I’m sure, of the ruckus surrounding Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz’s decision to run for Attorney General of CT instead of Governor and specifically the hubbub that followed compadre Ryan McKeen’s post asking if she met the qualifications of CGS 3-124 in order to be eligible for AG.

The statute states:

There shall be an Attorney General to be elected in the same manner as other state officers in accordance with the provisions of section 9-181. The Attorney General shall be an elector of this state and an attorney at law of at least ten years’ active practice at the bar of this state.

The question raised in regards to Bysiewicz was whether she had 10 years’ active practice, which then boiled down to a question of what “active practice” means.

I really, really didn’t want to jump into the fray, but seeing as how I was peripherally involved in Ryan’s researching the issue and posting the post and in light of the subsequent arguments on the constitutionality of the statute, I figure I owe it to nobody in particular to write this post.

So here we go: what does “active practice” mean? Nobody knows. Ultimately, if someone challenges the candidacy of SOTS Bysiewicz, a court will have to engage in a statutory construction/interpretation analysis.

Lord knows the plain language of the statute is ambiguous, so I suspect that some legislative history research will have to be conducted. I suspect that any court that reviews such a challenge would find that “active practice” means no more than a lawyer in good standing – but I’m not going into depth on that topic here.

[Addendum: What no one is charging, however, is that the candidate for AG has to have 10 years in private practice, as SOTS Bysiewicz seems to believe some are. I don't know where she got this from and she's just plain wrong on that. She's included that distinction as one of the bases for her argument that she qualifies because she has engaged in the practice of law in the public sector. This false distinction is her creation alone (as best as I can tell) and unfortunately, it is being parroted by those in the media without any correction whatsoever.]

The greater question might very well be: does 3-124 conflict with Amendment XV to the State Constitution? First, some more background. We’ve already seen what 3-124 provides. Two more statutes to consider: CGS 9-1, which defines “elector of this state”:

A citizen’s arrest

As is the norm, as I was leaving work on Friday I got caught in a long meandering conversation with co-workers that ended with this question: “Is a citizen’s arrest legal in CT?”

As is my wont, I was immediately contrarian and emphatically said “No!” As often happens in such situations, I was not even wrong.

I should’ve looked at C.G.S. 53a-22(f) before opening my gab. This statute provides:

(f) A private person acting on his or her own account is justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to effect an arrest or to prevent the escape from custody of an arrested person whom he or she reasonably believes to have committed an offense and who in fact has committed such offense; but he or she is not justified in using deadly physical force in such circumstances, except in defense of person as prescribed in section 53a-19.

The implication thus is that a private person has the authority to effect an arrest. In addition, in CT, a private citizen need not be present when the felony is committed in order to effectuate a citizen’s arrest. In State v. Smith, the Appellate Court considered this question:

According to the plain language of the statute, a private citizen may use reasonable force in arresting an individual whom he reasonably believes has committed an offense. If the arrested individual did not commit an offense, however, regardless of the reasonableness of the private citizen’s belief, the latter is not justified in making a citizen’s arrest. There is no requirement in § 53a-22 that the citizen making the arrest must also have witnessed the commission of the offense or have come upon the scene shortly after its occurrence, 16 nor has our Supreme Court put such a gloss on the statute.

Perhaps you will be just as surprised as I was to also learn that all but one state in these United States provides for a citizen’s arrest (the lone dissenter being North Carolina).

So there you have it. Go forth and arrest.