Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk


Criminal; Trespass; Probable Cause; Whether Police had Probable Cause to Arrest Defendant for Criminal Trespass Even Though There was a Gateless Opening in the Front Concrete Wall of the Premises Where he was Apprehended. The defendant was arrested without a warrant for criminal trespass in the third degree in violation of General Statutes 53a-109 (a) (1). A subsequent search of the defendant's person resulted in the seizure of narcotics, and, consequently, he was charged with various drug offenses. Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the seized evidence, which the trial court denied. After he was convicted as charged, the defendant filed an appeal, arguing, among other things, that the motion to suppress should have been granted because his arrest for criminal trespass was not based upon probable cause. Specifically, he claimed that because there was a gateless opening in the front concrete wall of the residential premises where he was apprehended, the premises were not "fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders" as required by 53a-109 (a) (1). The Appellate Court (105 Conn. App. 179) rejected the defendant's claim and affirmed the trial court's judgment. In doing so, the court determined that the statute requires not that a property be completely enclosed, but rather that it be enclosed sufficiently to exclude intruders, namely, those who purposefully enter the property despite having no legitimate reason to do so. It then emphasized that the premises at issue here were surrounded on three sides by a chain-link fence and that the fourth side featured a five foot high concrete wall. It therefore concluded that even with the gateless entryway, which allowed pedestrian traffic to access the sidewalk, the property was sufficiently enclosed so as to give reasonable notice that it was open not to anyone, but to the residents, their visitors and others with specific, legitimate reasons to be there. Accordingly, the court held that the property came within the protections of 53a-109 (a) (1). In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court's decision was correct.