Judicial District of Fairfield


Criminal; Whether a Common Hallway in a College Dormitory is Part of One's Residence or Abode Where the Hallway is used to Access Bathrooms, Kitchens and Other Areas Necessary to Life. In 2006, the defendant was a freshman at the University of Bridgeport and a resident of Bodine Hall, a university dormitory. He was charged with assault and with carrying a dangerous weapon in violation of General Statutes 53-206 (a) after he stabbed another student with a switchblade knife during a fight in a dormitory hallway. It is not a crime to carry a dangerous weapon in one's residence or place of abode. At trial, the defendant moved that he be acquitted of the dangerous weapon charge because the state had proven only that he had the switchblade within Bodine Hall, which he claimed was his residence or abode. The trial court denied the defendant's motion and instructed the jury that it could find the defendant guilty of carrying a dangerous weapon if it found that the defendant possessed the knife "outside of his residence in a common hallway where the defendant did not have a legal right to control access and to exclude others." The jury returned a guilty verdict on the dangerous weapon charge and the defendant appealed. The Appellate Court (116 Conn. App. 440) affirmed the conviction, rejecting the defendant's claim that the common hallways of Bodine Hall constituted part of his residence because they were needed to access shared areas necessary to daily life, including toilets, showers, laundry facilities and kitchenettes. The court noted that, in State v. Sealy, 208 Conn. 689 (1988), the Supreme Court explained that, to establish that an area constitutes one's residence or abode - and therefore that one has an expectation of privacy in that area - an individual must show that he has exclusive use of the area and the right to control access to the area and to exclude others. Applying Sealy, the Appellate Court held that the defendant's carrying the knife in the dormitory hallway fell outside the residence or abode exception because there was no evidence that the defendant had exclusive use of the hallway or the right to control access to it. The court therefore determined that the trial court properly instructed the jury that the defendant broke the law if he carried the switchblade in a common hallway. The Supreme Court will now determine whether the Appellate Court properly relied on Sealy in concluding that one's residence or place of abode cannot include common corridors and areas used to access a bathroom, kitchen or other area necessary to life.