STATE v. SETH WILLIAM APT, SC 19266

Judicial District of Tolland

 

Criminal; Sentencing; Erasure Statute; Whether State Can Pursue a New Hearing on Sentence Enhancement After Trial Court Wrongly Admitted Erased Records into Evidence. The state charged the defendant with larceny and committing an offense while released on bond. Prior to his arrest in this case, the defendant was charged with three other offenses and was released on bond three times. The records in those earlier cases were subject to erasure under General Statutes 54-142a. In this case, a jury found the defendant guilty of larceny. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court admitted the records from the defendant's earlier cases into evidence even though the erasure of those records had taken effect. The court then relied on the erased records in finding the defendant guilty of committing a crime while released on bond and enhanced his larceny sentence by two years. The Appellate Court (146 Conn. App. 641) reversed the trial court's judgment as to the sentence enhancement, concluding that the trial court had no authority to impose a sentence enhancement since the records that it relied on in finding the defendant guilty of committing a crime while released on bond had been erased. It found that the trial court's error was harmful because the erased records were the only evidence in support of the sentence enhancement. Moreover, the Appellate Court rejected the state's argument that the case should be remanded for a new hearing as to the sentence enhancement allegations where the state could introduce alternative evidence that the defendant was out on bond when he committed the larceny. It found that the sole subject of the trial court's inquiry on remand would be the defendant's pretrial release status on the date in question and that this status was inextricably related to the defendant's prior arrests. The court also determined that, under the erasure statute, the defendant is no longer considered to have been arrested for the crimes to which the records pertained. It thus found that it would be wholly inconsistent to enhance the defendant's sentence for committing a crime while released on bond for charges on which, according to the law, he was never arrested. Accordingly, the Appellate Court ruled that a new hearing was unnecessary regardless of the evidence produced by the state and that the proper remedy was to vacate the sentence enhancement and remove the additional two years from the defendant's sentence. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court, having held that the trial court committed harmful evidentiary error by admitting the erased records into evidence in support of a sentence enhancement, properly determined that the state could not pursue a rehearing on sentence enhancement.