STATE v. GREGORY CYRUS, SC 18326
Judicial District of Windham at Danielson
Criminal; General Statutes § 14-99f (c); Whether State Trooper had a Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion to Stop the Defendant for Driving With an Obstructed View. After noticing an object hanging from the rearview mirror of the defendant's vehicle, a state trooper stopped the defendant because he believed that the defendant was in violation of General Statutes 14-99f (c), which provides: "No article . . . shall be . . . hung . . . in any motor vehicle in such a manner or location as to interfere with the operator's unobstructed view of the highway or to distract the attention of the operator." The officer subsequently arrested the defendant for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs and issued him an infraction ticket for operating a vehicle with an obstructed view. At trial, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained at the time of his arrest. He argued that the arresting officer did not have a reasonable and articulable basis for stopping him. At the suppression hearing, the court heard conflicting testimony as to whether the officer stopped the defendant's car solely because he witnessed an object hanging from the rearview mirror or because he saw the object moving in such a way that would obstruct the defendant's vision or distract him. In considering the officer's testimony in its entirety, the court found that the officer stopped the defendant solely because he had something hanging from his rearview mirror. In light of this finding and its determination that § 14-99f (c) requires a showing that the object in question was in fact obstructing the driver's view or distracting him, the court concluded that the officer did not have a reasonable and articulable basis to stop the defendant. It therefore granted the motion to suppress and dismissed the charges. On the state's appeal, the Appellate Court (111 Conn. App. 482) affirmed the trial court's judgment. It determined that the state's first claim that the trial court improperly found that the officer stopped the defendant solely because he observed something hanging from the rearview mirror was inadequately briefed and therefore abandoned. It nevertheless determined that there was no basis for faulting the trial court's factual finding that the officer stopped the defendant's car in accordance with his routine practice of stopping cars whenever he observed something attached to their rearview mirrors. It indicated that the state did not establish that the officer stopped the defendant for any reason other than his mistaken belief that § 14-99f (c) makes it an infraction for a car to be driven with any object hanging from its rearview mirror. Moreover, it rejected the state's second claim that the trial court construed § 14-99f (c) too narrowly and noted that the state, in its reply brief, conceded that the trial court properly interpreted the statute. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's judgment.