STATE v. JOSEPH DIPAOLO, AC 24288
Judicial District of Danbury
Criminal; Whether Defendant's Conviction for Operating Under the Influence was Properly Enhanced Based on His Prior Conviction in a State That Does Not Have a Pretrial Diversionary Alcohol Education Program for First Time Offenders. In December of 2002, the defendant was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor in violation of General Statutes § 14-227a. In Connecticut, a person charged with violating § 14-227a can attend a pretrial alcohol education program if that person has not been convicted in any other state at any time of an offense in which the essential elements are substantially the same as the elements of § 14-227a. Upon the successful completion of the program, the trial court will dismiss the charge without the necessity of a trial. In this case, the defendant was not eligible for the program because the state subsequently charged him in a part B information with being a repeat offender based on a prior New York conviction for operating under the influence. The defendant also faced enhanced penalties under § 14-227a for being a repeat offender. The defendant moved to dismiss the part B information, arguing that the Connecticut legislature did not intend for enhanced penalties to apply to defendants whose prior convictions were from states that did not have an equivalent of Connecticut's alcohol education program. The defendant also argued that the application of an enhanced penalty here would violate the due process and equal protection clauses of both the United States and Connecticut constitutions. Specifically, he claimed that if his first arrest had occurred in Connecticut, he would have participated in the alcohol education program and would not have been subjected to an enhanced penalty in the present case. The trial court rejected the defendant's arguments, concluding that nothing in the legislative history of § 14-227a created an exception for anyone whose prior conviction is from a state that does not have an alcohol education program. It further determined that § 14-227a is concerned only with previous convictions and that the statute treats all defendants with prior convictions in the same manner. Accordingly, the court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss. Thereafter, the defendant pleaded nolo contendere to operating under the influence and to being a repeat offender, and he was sentenced to an enhanced penalty. In this appeal, the Appellate Court will determine whether the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to dismiss.