State v. Miller

Decision Date04 November 1992
Docket NumberNo. 10071,10071
Citation614 A.2d 1229,29 Conn.App. 207
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
Parties, 61 USLW 2235 STATE of Connecticut v. Jonathan MILLER.

Norcott, J., concurred in part, and dissented in part and filed opinion in which Dupont, C.J., and Edward Y. O'Connell, J., joined.

Daly, J., concurred in part, dissented in part, and filed opinion.

Ronald T. Murphy, Sp. Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Leon F. Dalbec, Jr., Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were John M. Bailey, State's Atty., and Edward Narus, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (state).


HEIMAN, Judge.

The defendant, Jonathan Miller, appeals from a judgment of conviction, rendered after a conditional plea of nolo contendere; see General Statutes § 54-94a; 1 to criminal possession of a pistol, revolver or electronic defense weapon in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217. He claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress a revolver that the police seized from the trunk of his car. We reverse the trial court's judgment.

The facts necessary to resolve this appeal are as follows. On March 17, 1990, at about 10 p.m., Elizer Negron, his six year old son and his eighteen year old brother were seated in Elizer's automobile, which was parked in the fire lane of Waldbaum's Foodmart on New Britain Avenue in West Hartford, while they waited to pick up Elizer's wife. As they sat and waited, three men walked past the vehicle from the rear. As the men walked past the car on their way into the supermarket, one of them said to Elizer, "What's up?" Shortly thereafter, as the three men ran out of the supermarket, both Elizer and his brother heard a scream, and then heard someone from inside the store yell that there had been a robbery.

The three men who had exited the supermarket raced across the parking lot toward New Britain Avenue. Two of them, including the man who said "What's up," ran toward the Piper Brook restaurant and got into a car, while the third ran toward a neighboring Dunkin Donuts shop. The man who spoke to Elizer drove the car to the third man, picked him up, and sped east on New Britain Avenue.

Elizer followed the vehicle in an attempt to ascertain its make and license plate number. Both he and his brother noted that the vehicle was a light grey Chrysler bearing the Connecticut license plate "428GFK." Upon obtaining the getaway car's make and license plate number, they returned to Waldbaum's and reported this information to a West Hartford police officer. A check of the vehicle's registration revealed that it was registered to Jonathan Miller of 41 Arlington Street in Hartford. Police officers from both West Hartford and Hartford went to Arlington Street in Hartford to apprehend Miller. When the officers arrived, neither the defendant nor the car was present.

West Hartford detective Jay St. Jacques parked his unmarked car at one end of Arlington Street and two other West Hartford police officers parked at the other end of the block in another unmarked car. All other police vehicles then left the area at St. Jacques' request.

About forty minutes after the robbery, St. Jacques observed a light grey Chrysler traveling down Arlington Street. St. Jacques followed the vehicle until it stopped on the side of Arlington Street. As the driver exited the car, St. Jacques pulled up from behind, trained his high beams on the car's driver, drew his weapon and identified himself as a police officer. The driver was the defendant.

As St. Jacques awaited back up assistance, the defendant made a comment about not hanging around, made a quick move back into his car and attempted to start it. As he did so, additional West Hartford police arrived and removed the defendant from the vehicle, patted him down for weapons, handcuffed him and placed him in the backseat of a West Hartford police cruiser. The pat down revealed no incriminating evidence. St. Jacques then approached the defendant, who was handcuffed and seated in the cruiser, removed the defendant's car keys from his pocket, unlocked the defendant's car, and searched its passenger compartment. Again, St. Jacques discovered no incriminating evidence.

The West Hartford police then contacted Elizer Negron and his brother to have them identify the defendant. Because the Negrons also lived on Arlington Street and did not want the defendant to know their identities or address, the police transported them from their Arlington Street residence to the parking lot of the Batchelder School in Hartford, where they were met by other West Hartford police officers driving the cruiser containing the handcuffed defendant. At the school parking lot, the officers removed the defendant from the vehicle and shined a spotlight on him. Both Negron brothers immediately identified the defendant as the person who had walked by their car at Waldbaum's Foodmart and said, "What's up."

The defendant was transported to the West Hartford police station, where he was charged with robbery. His car was towed from Arlington Street to the West Hartford police department garage, where it was secured and searched without a warrant. The search uncovered a .357 Smith and Wesson revolver in the car's trunk.

The defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134(a)(4) and conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) and 53a-134(a)(4). He filed a pretrial motion to suppress tangible evidence, claiming that the search of the vehicle at the police garage violated both the United States and the Connecticut constitutions. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant was acquitted of both charges after a jury trial. Subsequent to that verdict, the state charged the defendant with criminal possession of a pistol, revolver or electronic defense weapon in violation of General Statutes § 53a-217. The defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere to this charge, conditional on his right to appeal the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress physical evidence. This appeal followed.

In this appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court improperly rejected each of the following grounds offered in support of his motion to suppress: (1) the West Hartford police acted outside their territorial jurisdiction when they performed an investigation, stake out, Terry 2 stop and warrantless seizure of the defendant's car in Hartford; (2) the defendant's arrest was not supported by probable cause; and (3) the warrantless search of the defendant's car at the police garage was not authorized by any exception to the warrant requirement as commanded by the fourth amendment to the United States constitution and by article first, § 7, of the Connecticut constitution.


The defendant first claims that because the gun seized from his car was the product of an extraterritorial and, hence, illegal investigation, stakeout, Terry stop and warrantless seizure of his car in Hartford by the West Hartford police, the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress. We disagree.

The defendant's theory that municipal police officers are powerless to conduct the aforementioned activities outside of their precincts is rooted in article tenth, § 1, of the Connecticut constitution, 3 which provides that municipalities have only those powers that the state grants them. See City Counsel v. Hall, 180 Conn. 243, 248, 429 A.2d 481 (1980). The defendant further asserts that an enumeration of powers in a statute excludes those not enumerated, and that a delegation of power to municipal authorities is to be narrowly construed. See Simons v. Canty, 195 Conn. 524, 529-30, 488 A.2d 1267 (1985). He points out that General Statutes § 7-148(c) provides: "Any municipality shall have the power to ... (4) ... (A) Provide for police protection, regulate and prescribe the duties of the persons providing police protection with respect to criminal matters within the limits of the municipality...." (Emphasis added.) He argues that this statute prohibits municipalities from authorizing their police departments to act outside the municipalities' territorial boundaries. He also notes that General Statutes § 7-277a allows a municipality, through its chief executive officer, to request police assistance from another municipality. This statute, he contends, indicates that, absent a request from the host city's chief executive officer, police may not operate outside their respective precincts. Finally, he argues that General Statutes § 54-1f, the only statute that authorizes extraterritorial police action, permits only extraterritorial arrests. Thus, he concludes, municipal police officers generally have no authority to conduct an investigation, stakeout, Terry stop or seizure of property outside their precincts.

We first address the propriety of the West Hartford police investigation and warrantless seizure of the defendant's car in Hartford. Our resolution of this issue is controlled by our Supreme Court's decision in State v. Kuskowski, 200 Conn. 82, 510 A.2d 172 (1986). In State v. Kuskowski, supra, officer Maureen Doherty of the Brookfield police department was on routine duty near Lake Lillinonah when she observed a car with its interior light on parked in a boat launch area across the lake in the neighboring town of Bridgewater. Id., at 84, 510 A.2d 172. Doherty drove to the car and observed that the defendant, Russell Kuskowski, was unconscious in the driver's seat, with a burning propane torch in his lap. Id. Doherty roused the defendant, shut off the torch, and noticed drug paraphernalia on the console and driver's seat. Id. After other officers from the Brookfield police department arrived, a full search of the...

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