STATE v. JASMINE BEREIS, AC 29763
Judicial District of New London
Criminal; Driving While Under the Influence; Whether Trial Court Properly Allowed Admission of Arrest Report and Notice of Rights Form; Whether Evidence was Sufficient to Support Conviction. The Stonington police received a report that a blue SUV hit a parked car in a parking lot. The report included the license number of the SUV. Responding to the call, an officer found a vehicle matching the description parked on the side of the road. Inside the car were two women who were twin sisters. The woman in the driver's seat had the key in the "on" position in the ignition and was attempting to start the car. After the women exited the car, the officer smelled alcohol on the defendant and noticed that her speech was slurred and she could not walk well. As she appeared to be having an asthma attack, however, he did not administer field sobriety tests. The officer arrested the defendant and took her to the police station where she refused to take a breath test. At her trial on charges of driving under the influence of liquor or drugs and evading responsibility in the operation of a motor vehicle, the defendant did not testify, but her sister testified that she had been the driver of the SUV and that she had stopped it on the side of the road because it had run out of gas. She also stated that the defendant had been in the passenger seat. The first officer on the scene testified that he could tell the twins apart because of their clothing and because one was having breathing problems. He and the second officer to arrive, however, could not identify the defendant at trial. The defendant was eventually convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence but acquitted of evading responsibility. In this appeal, she claims that the trial court improperly admitted her arrest report and notice of rights form. The arrest report was prejudicial, she maintains, because it contained inadmissible hearsay in the form of checkmarks indicating that she refused to perform sobriety tests and refused to answer various questions. As to the notice of rights form, she contends that it was irrelevant and prejudicial insofar as it indicated that she refused to sign it. She additionally argued that these documents were cumulative to the officers' testimony and confusing to the jury. The defendant also argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she operated a motor vehicle while under the influence. Specifically, she claims that because the vehicle was out of gas, the act of turning the key in the ignition could not set in motion the motive power of the vehicle. She further claims that the state failed to prove that she was intoxicated. She finally argues that the guilty verdict on the driving while under the influence charge and the acquittal on the evading responsibility charge indicate that her sister was driving the vehicle. Accordingly, she argues that the verdicts were inconsistent.