State v. Couture

Citation151 Conn. 213,196 A.2d 113
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Norman E. COUTURE. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut
Decision Date26 November 1963
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Herbert Watstein, Bristol, with whom was Julius Watstein, New Haven, for appellant (defendant).

Robert P. Sneideman, Pros. Atty., for appellee (state).


MURPHY, Associate Justice.

The defendant was tried and convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court at Bristol on March 29, 1961, on an information charging him with 'operating under influence' in violation of General Statutes § 14-227 and on a traffic-ticket complaint alleging 'operating while lic. is suspended . . . Sec. 14-215' at Bristol on January 25, 1961. Thereafter, he was found guilty by the court on May 25, 1961, of having been previously convicted of 'operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor in violation of section 14-227.' He appealed to the Appellate Division of the Circuit Court, which found no error in the judgment of the trial court. We granted certification.

At the outset, we call attention to the allegations of the two crimes of which the defendant was convicted on March 29, 1961. One charge was 'operating under influence' in violation of § 14-227. The information is silent as to the nature of the substance which had him under its influence and what he was operating at the time. Section 14-227 makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of any drug. The specifics of the offense should be spelled out. Practice Book, 1963, § 493(b). The other charge was 'operating while lic. is suspended * * * Sec. 14-215.' Only the reference to the statute gives an inkling that it was a motor vehicle operator's license which was alleged to have been under suspension. As a matter of fact, the certified copy from the motor vehicles department of the defendant's driving history shows that it was his right to operate a motor vehicle in this state which was suspended. Nowhere in the record before us does it appear that a Connecticut operator's license had ever been issued to the defendant so that the license rather than the right to operate could be suspended. These deficiencies in the record and the trial of this case have not been made the basis of the appeal to us. They are, however, of such importance in the orderly processes of criminal justice that we direct attention to them. The method of charging the offenses which is recited above coincided with the first few months of the Circuit Court; General Statutes § 51-248; it is to be hoped that such procedures are not now being followed.

The defendant has pursued three assignments of error in this court. The first concerns the denial of his demand, on the cross-examination of a witness, to inspect a written report made by the witness; the second concerns two rulings on the admission in evidence of documents relied on by the state to prove that the defendant was a second offender; and the third is that the second-offender conviction is erroneous because the clerk did not docket the notice to the defendant of that charge in accordance with what is now § 487 of the 1963 Practice Book. We shall first dispose of the last claim.

The information alleging the violation of General Statutes § 14-227 was in two parts. In the first part, the defendant was charged with 'operating under influence.' In the second part, he was charged as a second offender. At the bottom of the second part, the clerk certified that in the corridor of the courthouse in Bristol at 10:10 a. m. on January 25, 1961, he had, in the absence of the court, informed the defendant of the contents of the second part before the defendant was put to plea. This certificate should have recited that the clerk had thus informed the defendant before the latter was put to plea on the first part of the information. Practice Book, 1963, § 487. The defendant does not claim, however, that he was not properly informed of the second-offender charge before his plea to the first part of the information. The rule (§ 487) also provides that the clerk shall enter on the docket the time and place of giving the information concerning the second-offender charge and shall 'include entry thereof in the judgment file.'

During the trial under the second part of the information, the clerk testified that the details of the notification to the defendant had not been entered on the docket or in the judgment file. At that time, the judgment file had not yet been prepared because the adjudication under the second part of the information had not yet been made. Actually, the judgment file is dated June 6, 1961. The trial on the second part of the information was held May 25, 1961. Despite the discussion which occurred in court, the judgment file as finally drafted contains no entry of the notification. The need for the docket and the manner of keeping it are governed by General Statutes § 51-52 and Practice Book 1963, § 189. The purpose of our procedure relative to notification of a defendant of the allegations concerning prior convictions is to ensure that, in fairness to him, he is made aware, before he is put to plea on the first part of the information, that the penalty which can be imposed on a finding of guilty on that part is greater because of the prior convictions alleged in the second part. State v. Reilly, 94 Conn. 698, 702, 110 A. 550; State v. Holloway, 144 Conn. 295, 301, 130 A.2d 562. The clerk testified that the defendant had been notified as attested by the certificate at the foot of the second part of the information. The failure to make proper entries on the docket and in the judgment file did not vitiate the conviction of the defendant under the second part of the information.

The arresting officer testified on cross-examination that he had refreshed his memory by reading his report before going to court on the morning of the trial. The defendant demanded the report, claiming that he had a right to examine it. The record before us is insufficient to indicate error in the refusal of the trial court to order the production of the report.

To prove that the defendant was a second offender,...

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14 cases
  • State v. Coleman
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • October 22, 1974
    ...essential elements of the crime with which he was being charged. State v. Beaulieu, 164 Conn. 620, 624, 325 A.2d 263; State v. Couture, 151 Conn. 213, 215-216, 196 A.2d 113; State v. Whiteside, 148 Conn. 208, 212, 169 A.2d 260, cert. denied, 368 U.S. 830, 82 S.Ct. 52, 7 L.Ed.2d 33. To affor......
  • State v. Hughes
    • United States
    • Circuit Court of Connecticut. Connecticut Circuit Court, Appellate Division
    • March 4, 1965
    ...of particulars appear to have been drawn in a cursory manner. They do not spell out the specifics of the offense. See State v. Couture, 151 Conn. 213, 216, 196 A.2d 113; Practice Book § 493(b). We assume, as did the trial court and the parties, that the substance which the defendants are al......
  • People v. Eason
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • July 5, 1990
    ...In accord Heinze v. People, 127 Colo. 54, 253 P.2d 596 (1953); Nail v. State, 225 Ark. 495, 283 S.W.2d 683 (1955); State v. Couture, 151 Conn. 213, 196 A.2d 113 (1963); Buchanan v. State ex rel Morris, 167 So.2d 43 (Fla.App., 1964); In re Sobieski, 246 Ind. 222, 204 N.E.2d 353 (1965). See a......
  • State v. Henton
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • September 29, 1998
    ...that "[t]o prove a conviction, it is necessary to show it by the record of a valid, subsisting final judgment." State v. Couture, 151 Conn. 213, 219, 196 A.2d 113 (1963). Here, it is undisputed that the state offered into evidence the defendant's valid judgment of conviction for robbery in ......
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