State v. Morelli

Decision Date27 August 1991
Docket NumberNo. 9080,9080
Citation25 Conn.App. 605,595 A.2d 932
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. William R. MORELLI.

John F. Kavanewsky, Jr., with whom, on the brief, was William Pelletreau, Norwalk, for appellant (defendant).

Mary H. Lesser, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were Eugene Callahan, State's Atty., and Philip D'Eramo, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (state).

Before DUPONT, C.J., and SPALLONE and DALY, JJ.

DUPONT, Chief Judge.

The defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor in violation of General Statutes § 14-227a. The defendant claims that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress the results of breath tests administered shortly after his arrest.

On September 19, 1989, Officer James Dempsey of the Wilton police department stopped the defendant for speeding. Dempsey smelled alcohol and administered a roadside sobriety test to the defendant. The test results confirmed Dempsey's suspicions, and the defendant was placed under arrest.

The defendant was transported to the Wilton police station where he consented to having his breath tested by a device known as an intoximeter. The Wilton police department's intoximeter was broken, and the defendant consented to being transported to the Weston police department where another intoximeter could be used.

The defendant was transported in a police cruiser to the Weston police department, arriving at approximately the same time Officer John Troxell of the Weston police department was performing a pretest on the Weston intoximeter. The pretest occurred at 12:46 a.m. and, at 1:21 a.m., the defendant's breath was tested. The test revealed that the defendant's blood alcohol level was above the allowable limit set forth in General Statutes § 14-227a(a)(2). After administering the intoximeter test, Officer James Filush of the Weston police department again tested the intoximeter at 1:26 a.m. and concluded that the intoximeter readings were accurate.

Following this first intoximeter test of the defendant, Dempsey processed the necessary paperwork, during which time the defendant remained in custody. At 1:51 a.m., a second pretest was performed to check the intoximeter's accuracy. A second intoximeter test of the defendant, performed at 1:54 a.m., also showed the defendant's blood alcohol level to be above the allowable limit. After administering the second breath test, Troxell again tested the intoximeter for accuracy at 2:08 a.m. and concluded that the intoximeter readings were accurate.

Prior to trial, the defendant made an oral motion in limine that was subsequently orally amended to a motion to suppress the intoximeter test results. The defendant claims that the trial court's denial of that motion was incorrect because the state failed to demonstrate that the intoximeter device was checked for accuracy immediately before and after the tests as required by General Statutes § 14-227a(c)(4) and because a true copy of the defendant's test results was neither mailed nor personally delivered to him within twenty-four hours or by the end of the next regular business day, after such results were known, whichever was later, as required by General Statutes § 14-227a(c)(2). 1

The issue to be resolved is whether the results of the two intoximeter tests were obtained in compliance with the statutory requirements for ensuring that such tests are accurate.

General Statutes § 14-227a(c) sets forth six elements that must be satisfied for the admissibility of the results of chemical analysis tests of a defendant's blood, breath or urine in a criminal prosecution for violation of § 14-227a(a) or (b). The defendant's challenge relates to the second and fourth elements, which provide that chemical test results are inadmissible unless a true copy of the report is mailed or delivered to a defendant within twenty-four hours or the next business day after the results are known and the device was checked for accuracy immediately before and after such test was performed by a person certified by the department of health services.

It is uncontested that all of the other requirements of § 14-227a(c) were met by Dempsey, Filush and Troxell. The defendant argues that, in view of the penal nature of § 14-227a, the requirement that accuracy tests be performed "immediately before and after" a defendant's test must be strictly construed, and that the thirty-five minute delay between the first pretest of the intoximeter and the first test of the defendant does not satisfy the statute. In addition, the defendant argues that the state failed to provide sufficient evidence at the suppression hearing to support its burden of proving that the test results were mailed to the defendant within twenty-four hours of the results being known.

The state concedes that there was a thirty-five minute delay between the first pretest of the intoximeter and the actual test of the defendant's breath, but it contends that this delay was not unreasonable and that there was compliance with the statutory word "immediately."

It is a fundamental principle of construction that a statute such as § 14-227a, which imposes criminal liability, is to be strictly construed. State v. Roque, 190 Conn. 143, 151, 460 A.2d 26 (1983). The rule of strict construction, however, does not require that the most narrow, technical and exact meaning be given to the language of a statute in frustration of an obvious legislative intent. Id. Common sense should be applied to the language of a penal statute, particularly if otherwise absurdity or frustration of the evident design of the legislature results. State v. Waterman, 7 Conn.App. 326, 334, 509 A.2d 518, cert. denied, 200 Conn. 807, 512 A.2d 231 (1986).

It is evident from the language of § 14-227a that the purpose of testing the intoximeter for accuracy is to ensure that the device reliably reflects the actual blood...

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9 cases
  • State v. Albert
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • October 13, 1998
    ...if otherwise absurdity or frustration of the evident design of the legislature results." (Citation omitted.) State v. Morelli, 25 Conn. App. 605, 609, 595 A.2d 932 (1991). For us to direct a judgment of acquittal here, as the defendant contends we must, we would have to strain and distort t......
  • State v. Ingram, 14844
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • February 13, 1997
    ...statute, particularly if otherwise absurdity or frustration of the evident design of the legislature results." State v. Morelli, 25 Conn.App. 605, 609, 595 A.2d 932 (1991). We conclude that the legislature clearly intended to punish individual acts of robbery separately as to each We now tu......
  • Bank of N.Y. Mellon v. Mazzeo
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • January 21, 2020
    ...was followed [at the time the letter was allegedly mailed]." Id., at 266, 268, 334 A.2d 434. Similarly, in State v. Morelli , 25 Conn. App. 605, 610–11, 595 A.2d 932 (1991), this court relied on circumstantial evidence in the form of witness testimony to hold that a police station had maile......
  • State v. Cuffee
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • September 7, 1993
    ...statute, particularly if otherwise absurdity or frustration of the evident design of the legislature results." State v. Morelli, 25 Conn.App. 605, 609, 595 A.2d 932 (1991). The statute at issue is General Statutes § 46b-127, which provides in pertinent part: "Upon the effectuation of the tr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Attacking and defending breath tests
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Attacking and Defending Drunk Driving Tests
    • May 5, 2021
    ...from state to state. EXAMPLES: • Connecticut requires that checks be conducted prior to and after every breath test. [ State v. Morelli , 595 A.2d 932 (Conn. App. 1991) (35-minute delay meets the requirement).] • California requires a calibration check to be performed every 10 days or every......

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