STATE v. MICHAEL CLARK, SC 18186
Judicial District of New Haven
Criminal; Search and Seizure; Whether the Evidence Seized From Defendant's Vehicle and Person Was Properly Suppressed as the Fruit of an Illegal Seizure. The state charged the defendant with various narcotics offenses. Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence found on his person and in his vehicle. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, police officers testified that after receiving information from a confidential informant that the defendant was selling marijuana from his vehicle in the Hill section of New Haven, they went to that area to locate the defendant. They further testified that when they came upon a vehicle matching the informant's description, they followed it for a short distance until it stopped at a red traffic signal. They next stated that they pulled alongside the defendant's vehicle so that he could not drive away and told him to stop the vehicle. Moreover, they testified that when they approached the vehicle and asked the defendant to roll down the window, they smelled marijuana and saw a few bags containing a "green plant like substance." A field test confirmed that the substance was marijuana, and the officers arrested the defendant. When searching the defendant's person and vehicle, they found $612 and a pound of marijuana. The defendant claimed that the suppressed evidence was the product of an illegal seizure that was not based on a reasonable and articulable suspicion. The trial court agreed and granted his motion to suppress. It found that the officers blocked the defendant's vehicle in an attempt to restrict his freedom of movement and that their conduct in immediately approaching him and asking him to roll down his window demonstrated their authority in such a manner that a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave. It also found that the seizure was not based on a reasonable and articulable suspicion because there was no basis for the informant's knowledge. Thereafter, on the state's motion, the trial court dismissed the charges because the state asserted that it would not be able to proceed with the prosecution without the suppressed evidence. The Appellate Court (107 Conn. App. 819) affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The Appellate Court indicated that there was no testimony as to how the informant came across his or her information and no testimony that the informant observed the defendant selling marijuana. It thus found that the informant simply made the allegation without providing any information from which the police could decide whether the informant's information was reliable. It also determined that the officers did not witness the defendant engaging in any illegal activity and that the only information they were able to corroborate before stopping him was certain identifying information that was unrelated to the informant's knowledge of the defendant's illegal activity. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's judgment.