May 2, 2016
Kathryn W. Bare, assistant state's attorney, with whom,
on the brief, was Maureen Platt, state's attorney, for
the appellant (state).
Osedach, assistant public defender, for the appellee
Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald,
Espinosa and Robinson, Js.
person convicted of a class A or class B felony on the
regular criminal docket of the Superior Court may be subject
to a lengthy mandatory minimum sentence and may suffer
various adverse consequences attendant to a felony
conviction. By contrast, a child adjudicated a delinquent on
the juvenile docket for committing that same offense is
subject to at most four years confinement at the Connecticut
Juvenile Training School and is spared many of those
attendant consequences. Our juvenile justice statutory scheme
requires the automatic transfer of certain cases involving
children who have been charged with the commission of a class
A or class B felony from the docket for juvenile matters to
the regular criminal docket. In 2015, the legislature amended
the juvenile transfer statute to increase the age of a child
whose case was subject to an automatic transfer by one year,
to fifteen years old. Public Acts 2015, No. 15-183, § 1
(P.A. 15-183, or act), codified at General Statutes (Supp.
2016) § 46b-127 (a) (1). Prior to this amendment, the
court was required to transfer a case from the juvenile
docket to the regular criminal docket in which a child, such
as the defendant, Nathaniel S., had been charged with the
commission of certain felonies and had attained the age
of fourteen years prior to the commission of such
offenses. See General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) § 46b-127
(a) (1). The question presented by this reserved question of
law is whether that amendment applies retroactively, so that
the case of a child who has been charged with committing a
class A or class B felony prior to the enactment of P.A.
15-183, and whose case already has been transferred to the
regular criminal docket, should now have his case transferred
back to the juvenile docket. We conclude that the legislature
intended that P.A. 15-183 apply retroactively and,
accordingly, we answer the reserved question in the
parties agree on the relevant procedural facts. By juvenile
arrest warrant dated August 14, 2012, the defendant was
charged with, among other crimes, sexual assault in the first
degree in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) §
53a-70 (a) (2), a class A felony, and risk of injury to a
child in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) §
53-21 (a) (2), a class B felony, for acts allegedly committed
in early May, 2012. The defendant was fourteen years old at
the time of the alleged crimes. On August 4, 2014, the
defendant's case was automatically transferred from the
juvenile docket of the Superior Court to the regular criminal
docket pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 2011) §
46b-127 (a) (1). Both at the time of the alleged crimes and
at the time of transfer, the transfer statute provided in
relevant part: ‘‘The court shall automatically
transfer from the docket for juvenile matters to the regular
criminal docket of the Superior Court the case of any child
charged with the commission of . . . a class A or B felony .
. . provided such offense was committed after such child
attained the age of fourteen years . . . .'' General
Statutes (Rev. to 2011) § 46b-127 (a) (1).
October 1, 2015, while the defendant's case was pending
on the regular criminal docket, P.A. 15-183 took effect.
Among other things, the act amended § 46b-127 (a) (1) by
raising the age of defendants whose cases are subject to
automatic transfer from the juvenile docket to the regular
criminal docket from fourteen years to fifteen years. See
P.A. 15-183, § 1. In response, the state and the
defendant jointly requested that the trial court reserve the
following question of law for the advice of this court
pursuant to General Statutes § 52-235 (a) and Practice
Book § 73-1: ‘‘Does [P.A. 15-183] apply to
the defendant, who is charged with committing [c]lass A and B
felonies when he was fourteen years old and had not yet
reached the age of fifteen, whose case was transferred to the
regular criminal docket of the Superior Court prior to [the
act's] effective date, but whose case has not yet been
adjudicated and will be adjudicated now that [P.A.] 15-183
has taken effect?'' The trial court, Fasano,
J., granted the request.
following principles govern our resolution of the reserved
question. With respect to criminal statutes, a statute is
said to have retroactive application if it applies to crimes
allegedly committed prior to its date of enactment.
Robinson v. Commissioner of Correction, 258
Conn. 830, 836 n.7, 786 A.2d 1107 (2002). Whether a new
statute is to be applied retroactively or only prospectively
presents a question of statutory interpretation over which we
exercise plenary review. Walsh v. Jodoin,
283 Conn. 187, 195, 925 A.2d 1086 (2007). The question is one
of legislative intent and is governed by well established
rules of statutory construction. Id.
rules of presumed legislative intent govern our retroactivity
analysis. Pursuant to those rules, our first task is to
determine whether a statute is substantive or procedural in
nature. In re Daniel H., 237 Conn. 364, 373, 678
A.2d 462 (1996). ‘‘[Although] there is no precise
definition of either [substantive or procedural law], it is
generally agreed that a substantive law creates, defines and
regulates rights while a procedural law prescribes the
methods of enforcing such rights or obtaining
redress.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
D'Eramo v. Smith, 273 Conn. 610, 621,
872 A.2d 408 (2005).
statute is substantive, then our analysis is controlled by
General Statutes § 55-3, which provides:
‘‘No provision of the general statutes, not
previously contained in the statutes of the state, which
imposes any new obligation on any person or corporation,
shall be construed to have retrospective effect.''
‘‘[W]e have uniformly interpreted § 55-3 as
a rule of presumed legislative intent that statutes affecting
substantive rights shall apply prospectively only. . . . [I]n
the absence of any clear expression of legislative intent to
the contrary [changes to statutes that create or impose
substantive new obligations are therefore] presumptively
prospective.'' (Citation omitted; footnote omitted;
internal quotation marks omitted.) Walsh v.
Jodoin, supra, 283 Conn. 195-96.
contrast, ‘‘[p]rocedural statutes have been
traditionally viewed as affecting remedies, not substantive
rights, and therefore leave the preexisting scheme intact. .
. . [Accordingly] we have presumed that procedural . . .
statutes are intended to apply retroactively absent a clear
expression of legislative intent to the contrary . . .
.'' Id., 196. ‘‘We have
noted, however, that a procedural statute will not be applied
retroactively if considerations of good sense and justice
dictate that it not be so applied.'' (Internal
quotation marks omitted.) Narayan v.
Narayan, 305 Conn. 394, 403, 46 A.3d 90 (2012).
Because, in the absence of clear statutory guidance, these
default rules provide a conclusive expression of the presumed
intent of the legislature, it rarely will be necessary to
consult legislative history or other extratextual sources to
ascertain the legislative intent with respect to
retroactivity. See State v. Kalil, 314
Conn. 529, 558-59, 107 A.3d 343 (2014).
our attention to the present case, the parties agree that
P.A. 15-183 has both procedural and substantive elements. The
defendant, however, contends that the act is primarily
procedural in nature and, therefore, presumptively
retroactive in its application, whereas the state
characterizes the act as having significant substantive
effects and, therefore, is presumptively prospective in its
application. We agree with the defendant.
is no doubt that the amended statute, on its face, dictates
only a procedure-automatic transfer- for adjudicating the
cases of certain children accused of committing class A or
class B felonies. For that reason, in State v.Kelley, 206 Conn. 323, 332, 537 A.2d 483 (1988),
this court characterized the juvenile transfer statute as
akin to a change of venue and, ‘‘by its nature,
procedural.'' The only change effectuated by P.A.
15-183 is to narrow the class of persons to whom this
procedure applies. A child who had only attained the age of
fourteen when he allegedly committed such crimes is no longer
subject to automatic transfer to the regular criminal docket
pursuant to General Statutes ...