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State v. Comollo

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

April 10, 1990

STATE of Connecticut
v.
Richard COMOLLO. 7693.

Argued Dec. 12, 1989.

Page 1038

Christopher W. Bromson, with whom were Francis S. Holbrook II and Donald G. Leis, Jr., Windsor Locks, for appellant (defendant).

Jacqueline J. Footman, Deputy Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were John Bailey, State's Atty., and Warren Gower, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (state).

Before DALY, NORCOTT and FOTI, JJ.

[21 Conn.App. 211] FOTI, Judge.

The defendant appeals from the judgment of conviction, after a plea of nolo contendere, pursuant to General Statutes § 54-94a [1] and Practice Book § 4003, [2] of

Page 1039

[21 Conn.App. 212] operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor in violation of General Statutes § 14-227a(a). [3] The defendant claims that the court erred in denying his motion to dismiss and his motion to suppress. We find no error.

The facts are as follows. At 2:23 a.m. on March 22, 1987, Officer Steve Madden of the Connecticut state police received a dispatch that a one car accident had occurred on Interstate 84 approximately 200 feet east of exit 56. He arrived at the scene of the accident within minutes after he received the call. He observed an automobile[21 Conn.App. 213] on the right side of the road, resting against a guardrail in the eastbound lane. The damage to the car was consistent with its striking the guardrail Before coming to a stop. The officer also observed that the car was stationary, the motor was not running but the engine compartment was warm. The headlights were off, the keys were not in the ignition, and there was no operator behind the wheel. The officer did not observe any skid marks at the scene and he was unable to locate any additional witnesses to the accident. There were no pedestrians in sight, a fact consistent with the type of highway.

When the officer approached, the defendant was standing next to the vehicle. Although it had been raining, the defendant's clothes were dry, leading Madden to conclude that the defendant had not been out in the rain for any appreciable length of time. Madden asked the defendant if he had been the driver of the car and whether he had been injured. The defendant replied that he was the driver and that he had not been injured. The defendant told the officer that another vehicle had struck his

Page 1040

car, forcing him off the highway. At Madden's request, the defendant retrieved his driver's license, registration and insurance information from the vehicle's glove compartment. The registration indicated that the car was owned by General Motors Acceptance Corporation.

As the defendant and Madden spoke, the officer detected a strong odor of alcohol on the defendant's [21 Conn.App. 214] breath. During the course of their conversation, the defendant first stated that he was coming home from the movies. He later stated that he had been drinking Before he went to the movies. Finally, the defendant stated that he had been drinking at a lounge and restaurant prior to the accident.

The officer administered a field sobriety test that confirmed his suspicions that the defendant was intoxicated. The defendant was arrested and transported to the state police barracks where he consented to an alcohol breath test. The defendant was given two intoximeter tests that morning. The first, administered at 3:31 a.m., resulted in a blood alcohol reading of .191. The second intoximeter test was administered at 4:06 a.m. and showed a blood alcohol reading of .185.

I

The defendant claims that the court erred in denying his motion to dismiss, which was filed pursuant to General Statutes § 54-56 and Practice Book § 815(5). He asserts that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a finding that the defendant was operating the motor vehicle. It is the defendant's position that any admission or statement he made at the time of the arrest is inadmissible unless the state first produces sufficient independent corroborative evidence to establish that he was operating the motor vehicle. Specifically, the defendant claims that the state failed to offer sufficient preliminary proof of the corpus delicti of the element of operation to allow his admission to be used by the trier of fact as proof that he was, in fact, the driver of the car. We do not agree.

General Statutes ยง 14-227a provides that "[n]o person shall operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor...." "The state must prove each of the two essential elements of the crime charged [that the defendant was the operator and that [21 Conn.App. 215] he was under the influence of intoxicating liquor] beyond a reasonable doubt.... The court was entitled to draw all fair and reasonable inferences from the facts established by the evidence, but the conclusion based on them must ...


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