State v. Hodkoski
The amount of damage is immaterial to the duties arising under the evasion of responsibility statute, Connecticut General Statutes §14-224(b), and evidence of the removal of bark from a tree struck by the defendant’s vehicle was sufficient to prove damages to property for a conviction under C.G.S. §14-224(b). Following a jury trial, Mark Hodkoski was convicted of criminal attempt to commit evasion of responsibility in operating a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor as a third or subsequent offender. Hodkoski appealed, first claiming that the court erred in denying his motion to suppress certain statements made to police before being advised of his rights under the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court concluded that, notwithstanding the state’s inability to produce the initial notice of rights form, the defendant had been read his Miranda rights before making the challenged statements and refusing to take a Breathalyzer test. The finding was based on the arresting officer’s testimony, which the trial court found credible, and contemporaneous notation on another form that the defendant’s Miranda rights had been read to him before he refused to take a breath test. The court found that the defendant also was read his Miranda rights later while being processed on his other charges and considered his extensive criminal record, including 23 prior arrests, as evidence of his familiarity with his rights and the booking process. Given the evidence, the Appellate Court concluded that the trial court’s denial of the motion to suppress was not clearly erroneous. The defendant also challenged his attempted evasion conviction and contended that the mere removal of tree bark, without more, did not constitute property damage under C.G. S. §14-224(b). However, C.G.S. §14-224(b) requires no proof of resulting financial loss from the damage to property. Evidence of the tree’s bark removal was sufficient to prove damage to property under C.G.S. §14-224(b). Because the occurrence of such damages was uncontested, and such damage constituted damage to property under the statute, the defendant was required to stop and given notice of the accident to the property’s owner. Evidence of his effort to drive away without doing so was sufficient to support his attempted evasion conviction.