STATE v. ENRIQUE AYALA, SC 19466
Judicial District of New Haven
Criminal; Whether Appellate Court Properly Reversed Conviction on Ground that Trial Court Abused its Discretion in Allowing State to Amend Information After Start of Trial. The defendant was arrested after he engaged in an altercation with police who had initiated a traffic stop of his girlfriend’s vehicle. The defendant approached a police officer and used profanity in asking why his girlfriend was being detained. When the police, believing that the defendant might be armed, attempted a pat down search, the defendant resisted and was arrested. At the police station, he refused to cooperate, and the police used a Taser gun to subdue him. The state charged the defendant with three counts of interfering with an officer based on his conduct during the traffic stop and one count of assaulting an officer based on his conduct at the police station. At the end of the state's case, the court allowed the state to amend the information to allege that the interfering charges were based on the defendant's conduct both during the traffic stop and at the police station. The defendant was convicted of three counts of interfering with an officer, and he appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in allowing the state to amend the information at the close of its case. The Appellate Court (154 Conn. App. 631) agreed and reversed the conviction. It noted that the defendant's claim was governed by Practice Book § 36-18, which provides that a trial court may permit the state to amend its information after the start of trial and before a verdict for good cause shown “if no additional or different offense is charged and no substantive rights of the defendant would be prejudiced.” It then determined that the trial court failed to make the requisite finding of good cause for the amendment and that there was no basis in the record on which to make such a finding. The Appellate Court also determined that the trial court's failure to make a good cause finding was significant because the state's request to amend the information came after the defendant took steps to limit the jury's use of the evidence regarding his conduct at the police station. Moreover, it found that the defendant's alleged interference with the officers during the traffic stop and his alleged interference with the officers at the police station comprised two distinct transactions separated by time and location. It thus found that the amended information alleged an additional crime that was not part of a continuing course of conduct as alleged by the state and that the defendant was not on notice of the new charge, as he defended his case with notice of an assault occurring at the police station and interference with the officers occurring during the traffic stop. The state appeals, and the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly found that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the state to amend its information after the start of the trial pursuant to Practice Book § 36-18. The state claims that, because the manner in which the state tried the assault charge put the defendant on notice that he needed to defend against evidence that he had interfered with the officers at the police station, the amendment of the information did not prejudice the defendant’s substantive rights.