STATE v. MICHAEL BURNELL, SC 18139

Judicial District of New Haven

 

Criminal; Double Jeopardy; Whether State's Prosecution of Defendant for Operating a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence, Which Followed the Department of Motor Vehicles' Suspension of Defendant's License Based on the Same Offense, Violated Defendant's Double Jeopardy Rights. On January 13, 2006, the defendant was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol in violation of General Statutes 14-227a. Thereafter, the department of motor vehicles held a hearing, which allowed the defendant to contest having his license suspended as a result of his January 2006 arrest. The defendant's arguments at that hearing were unsuccessful, and the department suspended his license. The defendant subsequently appeared in Superior Court in connection with the January 2006 incident, and he moved to dismiss the charge of operating under the influence on double jeopardy grounds. He claimed that he was being prosecuted a second time for the January 2006 offense in violation of his double jeopardy rights because the department had previously prosecuted him for the offense. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, concluding that State v. Hickam, 235 Conn. 614 (1995), was dispositive of the double jeopardy issue and that according to Hickam, the defendant was not placed in jeopardy twice for the same offense. In Hickam, the Supreme Court addressed whether a criminal prosecution for operating under the influence following an administrative license suspension constituted a double jeopardy violation. The Supreme Court noted that the double jeopardy clause protects against (1) a second prosecution for the same offense after an acquittal, (2) a second prosecution after a conviction and (3) multiple punishments for the same offense. It then noted that the double jeopardy protection against multiple punishments for the same offense was at issue, and it found that the defendant was not exposed to multiple punishments for the same offense because the department's suspension of her license was remedial in nature and did not constitute punishment. The defendant in the present case then entered a plea of nolo contendere, and the court sentenced him accordingly. In this appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court should have dismissed his criminal case on double jeopardy grounds not because the department had already punished him for the same offense, but because the department had already prosecuted and convicted him of the same offense.