State v. Joyce, No. 14708

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore PETERS; BERDON; In this opinion, PETERS; CALLAHAN, Associate Justice, with whom SANTANIELLO
Citation229 Conn. 10,639 A.2d 1007
Parties, 62 USLW 2687 STATE of Connecticut v. Wallace JOYCE.
Docket NumberNo. 14708
Decision Date16 March 1994

Page 1007

639 A.2d 1007
229 Conn. 10, 62 USLW 2687
STATE of Connecticut
Wallace JOYCE.
No. 14708.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Oct. 25, 1993.
Decided March 16, 1994. *

[229 Conn. 11]

Page 1009

John R. Williams, New Haven, for appellant (defendant).

James A. Killen, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, State's Atty., and Michael A. Pepper, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (state).


[229 Conn. 11] BERDON, Associate Justice.

The principal issue in this appeal is whether the state constitution requires the police, while lawfully in custodial possession of a suspect's clothing, to obtain a warrant before subjecting the clothing to a chemical analysis. The defendant Wallace Joyce was charged with two counts of arson in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-111(a)(3) and (4), respectively. 1 Prior to trial, he moved to suppress certain evidence, including the results of a chemical analysis of his clothing. Although the trial court granted the motion in part, the court refused to suppress the chemical analysis results. After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of one count of arson in the first [229 Conn. 12] degree in violation of § 53a-111(a)(4) and acquitted of the charge under § 53a-111(a)(3). He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twelve years, suspended after four years, fined $5000 and placed on five years probation. On the defendant's appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed the conviction with one judge, Heiman, J., dissenting. State v. Joyce, 30 Conn.App. 164, 619 A.2d 872 (1993). We granted the defendant's petition for certification. 2 We conclude that the results of the chemical analysis should have been suppressed and therefore reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The following evidence and findings, taken from the suppression hearing except as otherwise indicated, are relevant to the defendant's appeal. On January 29, 1990, firefighters and paramedics arrived at 125 Maple Street, East Haven, in response to a dispatch call reporting that there had been an explosion at that location. Emergency medical technician Charles Licata, en route to the scene, received a call to step up the priority because there was a patient in need of immediate medical treatment. When Licata arrived, the house at 125 Maple Street was on fire and the defendant was standing in a nearby river, waist deep in water. The defendant appeared to be severely burned. Licata helped the defendant out of the water and up onto an embankment. The defendant's clothing was burned and smoldering and he had first, second and third degree burns over 42 percent of his body. His hands were degloved, meaning that the skin was intact but it was hanging off his hands. Licata cut all of the defendant's clothing off in order to expose his injuries so that they could be cleaned and treated and placed the clothing [229 Conn. 13] on the ground by the side of the road. Licata cleaned the defendant's burns, placed him on a gurney, covered him with a sterile burn dressing, administered oxygen, and periodically wet down his body with a sterile saline solution. He then took the

Page 1010

defendant to Yale-New Haven Hospital. In Licata's opinion, based on his training and experience with burn victims, the defendant might have died had he not received immediate medical treatment and transportation to the hospital.

Licata and detective Paul Hemingway rode in the ambulance with the defendant to the hospital. Licata told Hemingway that the defendant's clothing had been left by the roadside. En route to the hospital, Licata asked the defendant what had happened and the defendant responded that he had gone to his parents' house to check on something. He had opened the door, and there had been an explosion. He was not sure if he had been blown out of the house, or if he had run out of the house to the river.

In the emergency room, Hemingway also asked the defendant what had happened, and the defendant repeated what he had told Licata. Hemingway then asked the defendant if he had a car. The defendant stated that he had a pickup truck, parked some distance away from the scene of the fire, at the Professional Building on Foxon Road in East Haven. Hemingway asked the defendant why the car was parked elsewhere, and the defendant responded that he had experienced mechanical problems. The conversation lasted only a minute, ending because the defendant, due to his condition, was no longer able to answer questions. Hemingway also spoke with the defendant's wife. He told her that the police had the defendant's burned clothing and wallet, and that she could pick them up at the police station.

[229 Conn. 14] Detective Bruce Scobie took possession of the defendant's clothing, which was lying in a pile on the street. Scobie and Hemingway took the wet items of clothing to the police department, and hung them up to dry. They also inventoried the contents of the defendant's wallet. After the clothing had dried, it was tagged, placed in bags and stored at the police department. Scobie stated that his intention had been to return the clothing to its proper owner, and that he had been carrying out a customary procedure for safekeeping property, because "[i]f we left ... [the items of clothing] lying in the street they [would] either be thrown out or stolen." Both Scobie and Hemingway stated that the defendant had not been considered a suspect at these initial stages of the investigation. The trial court found that the police had taken custody of the defendant's clothing pursuant to their community caretaking function. See State v. Tully, 166 Conn. 126, 136, 348 A.2d 603 (1974). Neither party challenges this finding on appeal.

Within a day, the defendant did become a suspect. On January 30, the day after the fire, Scobie gave the defendant's clothing to fire marshall Frederick Brow. Brow immediately brought each item of clothing to the state forensic laboratory in Meriden for chemical testing, except for the defendant's undershirt and dungarees, which he transported two days later. Brow did not obtain a warrant before ordering the chemical analysis of the clothing. The police did, however, apply for and obtain a warrant to seize the defendant's pickup truck several days later.

Jack Hubball, the head of the chemistry section of the state forensic laboratory, employed gas chromatography analysis on each of the defendant's items of clothing. At the defendant's trial, Hubball testified concerning the nature of the test he had performed. In the first step of the procedure, Hubball heated the [229 Conn. 15] garments individually to vaporize any organic material present. In the second step of the procedure, he ran the vapors through a column designed to separate the mixture of chemical compounds inside the vapor according to the differing boiling points of each compound. The machine produced a printout of a pattern that represented the compounds present in the vapor. In the final step of the procedure, Hubball compared the pattern with a library of known signature patterns of organic substances. The pattern on the defendant's shirt, shoes, socks and jeans matched the known pattern for gasoline. 3

Page 1011

The defendant argues that the chemical analysis of his clothing was the product of an illegal search and seizure under both the fourth amendment to the United States constitution 4 and article first, § 7, of the constitution of Connecticut 5 and therefore should have been suppressed. Since we agree with the defendant that the warrantless chemical analysis of the clothing constituted an unconstitutional search under article first, § 7, we need not reach the claim under the federal constitution. 6 "It is well established that federal [229 Conn. 16] constitutional and statutory law establishes a minimum national standard for the exercise of individual rights and does not inhibit state governments from affording higher levels of protection of such rights.... Cologne v. Westfarms Associates, 192 Conn. 48, 57, 469 A.2d 1201 (1984)." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Geisler, 222 Conn. 672, 684, 610 A.2d 1225 (1992).

The state argues, however, that we should not review the state constitutional issue because the defendant failed to provide a separate or distinct analysis under the state charter in the Appellate Court. We have made clear that under these circumstances we are not bound to review the state constitutional claim. 7 See, e.g., State [229 Conn. 17] v.

Page 1012

Birch, 219 Conn. 743, 746 n. 4, 594 A.2d 972 (1991). We have never held, however, that we are precluded from doing so. Under appropriate circumstances, review of state constitutional claims may be undertaken despite the failure of a defendant to brief the state constitutional issue in a prior appeal. State v. Geisler, 25 Conn.App. 282, 283-84 n. 2, 594 A.2d 985 (1991), aff'd, 222 Conn. 672, 610 A.2d 1225 (1992). In the present case, the dissent in the Appellate Court was predicated in part on the state constitutional issue. 8 We certified the issue for review under both the federal and state constitutions, and both parties accordingly briefed the state constitutional issue in this court. We conclude that, under the circumstances of this case, we may review the defendant's article first, § 7 claim. See State v. Barrett, 205 Conn. 437, 445, 534 A.2d 219 (1987). 9

[229 Conn. 18] In determining whether the results of the chemical test of the defendant's clothing should have been suppressed under the state exclusionary rule, 10 as the product of a search 11 that violated the state constitution, we employ the same analytical framework that would be used under the federal constitution. 12 We must [229 Conn. 19] determine (1)

Page 1013

whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy in the clothing; (2) whether the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
71 cases
  • State v. Kimble, No. 26992.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 25 Marzo 2008
    ...unless they fall within one of a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions to the warrant requirement." State v. Joyce, 229 Conn. 10, 24-25, 639 A.2d 1007 (1994), on appeal after remand, 243 Conn. 282, 705 A.2d 181 (1997), cert. denied, 523 U.S. 1077, 118 S.Ct. 1523, 140 L......
  • State v. Houghtaling, AC 35720
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 17 Marzo 2015
    ...expectation of privacy in the invaded place. Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 143, 99 S. Ct. 421, 58 L. Ed. 2d 387 (1978); State v. Joyce, 229 Conn. 10, 20, 639 A.2d 1007 (1994). Absent such an expectation, the subsequent police action has no constitutional ramifications. . . . In order to ......
  • State v. Sayles, AC 43500
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 23 Febrero 2021
    ...Conn. 150, 160, 579 A.2d 58 (1990) ; Cologne v. Westfarms Associates , 192 Conn. 48, 57, 469 A.2d 1201 (1984) ; see also State v. Joyce , 229 Conn. 10, 16, 639 A.2d 1007 (1993) ("[i]t is well established that federal constitutional and statutory law establishes a minimum national standard f......
  • State v. Cobb, (SC 14384)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 7 Diciembre 1999
    ...correct, under our independent state constitutional limitation on warrantless searches, as expressed in such decisions as Stale v. Joyce, 229 Conn. 10, 639 A.2d 1007 (1994), and State v. Miller, 227 Conn. 363, 630 A.2d 1315 31. The fact that a Record Town bag, rather than a Music Land bag, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT