STATE v. ALIA K. ALTAJIR, SC 18706
Judicial District of Litchfield
Criminal; Violation of Probation; Whether Appellate Court Properly Declined to Review Defendant's Due Process Claim Stemming from the Sentencing Court’s Reliance on Material from Facebook; Whether Defendant was Deprived of Due Process. The defendant was involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in the death of one of her passengers. She was subsequently convicted of misconduct with a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. While serving the probationary period of her sentence, she was arrested for violating two terms of her probation, namely, that she not operate a motor vehicle without a license and that she not operate a motor vehicle without an ignition interlock device. She admitted to both violations. During the dispositional phase of the violation of probation hearing, the state sought to introduce into evidence photographs of the defendant that she had posted on the Facebook social networking Internet site. The state asserted that the photographs indicated that the defendant left the state without permission. Many of the photographs also depicted the defendant drinking alcohol and attending parties and social events. The state conceded that drinking alcohol was not itself illegal and did not amount to a violation of probation, but it claimed that an inference could be drawn from the photographs that the defendant could have been drinking and driving and that she had not learned from her mistakes. The court admitted the photographs over the defendant’s objection and, prior to sentencing, mentioned that in looking at the photographs all it could think of was “where is the remorse?" It then stated that the defendant's failure to abide by the conditions of her probation was egregious and sentenced her to three years of incarceration. The defendant appealed to the Appellate Court, arguing, among other things, that she was denied due process because the sentencing court admitted unreliable Facebook evidence and substantially relied on it in rendering her sentence. In particular, she argued that because the dates the photographs were "posted" on Facebook did not indicate when they were actually taken, the photographs were unreliable because there was no way of confirming that they were taken while she was on probation. The Appellate Court (123 Conn. App. 674) declined to review her claim on the ground that it was not preserved properly for appeal. It further indicated that the defendant could not obtain review under State v. Golding, 213 Conn. 233 (1989), because her claim was not of a constitutional magnitude. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court improperly declined to review the defendant's claim, and, if so, whether the defendant was deprived of due process.