Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, and a related offense, holding that Defendant’s arguments on appeal were not consistent with the controlling law. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) he was denied his constitutional right of self-representation when the trial court denied his request to proceed pro se with “standby counsel” without making any further inquiry; and (2) he was deprived of a fair trial when the trial court precluded his proffered psychiatric testimony for failure to serve notice on the People. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a trial court has the discretion to conduct further colloquy where a defendant does not unequivocally request to proceed without counsel but instead prefers to proceed with the assistance of counsel; and (2) the trial court did not err in precluding Defendant’s unnoticed psychiatric evidence because there was no justification for the surprise, and to allow it would contradict the statutory purpose behind the notice requirement. View "People v. Silburn" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division ruling that Teri W.’s ten-year probation sentence was legal. Teri W. pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse in the first degree, a class D felony sex offense, for an offense she committed when she was seventeen years old. Supreme Court deemed her conviction vacated and replaced by a youthful offender finding and sentenced her to ten years’ probation. On appeal, Teri W. argued that her probation sentence illegally exceeded the five-year maximum for undesignated class E felonies. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the sentence was lawful. View "People v. Teri W." on Justia Law

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The lengthy delay between Defendant’s arrest in this case and his eventual guilty plea violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Defendant was charged in an indictment with murder in the second degree and other crimes. The time between Defendant’s arrest and his eventual guilty plea spanned six years, three months, and twenty-five days. Defendant spent the entirety of that period incarcerated. On appeal, the Appellate Division held that Defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated. The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division and dismissed the indictment, holding that, after evaluating all the relevant factors set forth in People v. Taranovich, 37 N.Y.2d 442 (1975), under the circumstances of this case, Defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. View "People v. Wiggins" on Justia Law

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The State Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders (Board) may consider a defendant’s Youthful Offender (YO) adjudication for the limited public safety purpose of accurately assessing the offender’s risk to reoffend. Defendant committed first-degree rape and, thereby, became subject to New York’s Sex Offender Registration Act’s (SORA) sex offender registration requirements. The Board gave defendant a score of 115 points, including twenty-five points for his “criminal history” factors, based solely on his YO adjudication for third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, committed when he was seventeen years old. Defendant objected, arguing that because a YO adjudication is not a conviction, it may not be considered as part of a defendant’s criminal history for the purposes of SORA. The SORA court overruled the objection and designated Defendant a Level III sexually violent sex offender. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Board’s interpretation of its authority under SORA does not conflict with the Criminal Procedure Law’s youthful offender provisions. View "People v. Francis" on Justia Law

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Defense counsel’s consent to verdict sheet annotations beyond those automatically permitted by N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 310.20 did not deprive Defendant of meaningful representation. After a trial, the jury retuned a guilty verdict against Defendant on twelve counts. On appeal, County Court held, sua sponte, that the annotations on the verdict sheets were “extraneous, and highly inflammatory information” that “marshaled and bolstered the People’s proof." County Court went on to conclude that defense counsel’s consent to the annotations constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that defense counsel’s consent to the annotations did not deprive Defendant of meaningful representation. View "People v. O'Kane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals modified the order of the Appellate Division that reversed a judgment by Supreme Court, vacated Defendant’s pleas, and dismissed Defendant’s indictment without prejudice. The People filed a motion to compel a DNA test and served the motion on retained defense counsel. The trial court, in Defendant’s absence, granted retained counsel’s motion to be relieved from representing Defendant and granted the People’s DNA discovery motion. After counsel was relieved, Defendant appeared in court. The court proceeding to act in place of counsel throughout an extensive colloquy. Notwithstanding Defendant’s entreaties for an attorney to advise him regarding the motion to compel a DNA test, the court rejected Defendant’s requests for an attorney. The Court of Appeals held that the Appellate Division correctly determined that Defendant was deprived his right to counsel during the pretrial proceedings concerning the DNA test. The court further held, however, that dismissal of the indictment was not “necessary and appropriate” to rectify the injustice to Defendant. View "People v. Smith" on Justia Law

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When identification is an issue in a criminal case and the identifying witness and defendant appear to be of different races, a party is entitled, upon request, to a charge on cross-racial identification. Defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree and other crimes. During trial, defense counsel requested that the jury be instructed on cross-racial identification. The trial court denied the request, and the jury found Defendant guilty. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered a new trial, holding (1) in light of the “near consensus among cognitive and social psychologists that people have significantly greater difficulty in accurately identifying members of a different race than in accurately identifying members of their own race,” the need for a charge on the cross-race effect is evidence; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the trial court abused its discretion in denying Defendant’s request for a cross-racial identification charge. View "People v. Boone" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A government agency may rely on section 37(2)(e)(iii) of the State’s Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law art 7 (FOIL)) - under which an agency may seek to exempt from public inspection those records compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, would identify a confidential source or disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation - only if the agency establishes that (1) an express promise of confidentiality was made to the source, or (2) the circumstances of the particular case are such that the confidentiality of the source or information can be reasonably inferred. In this case, the Second Department ruled that the District Attorney of Nassau County properly denied Petitioner’s FOIL request for records relating to his conviction. Petitioner subsequently commenced this proceeding pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 against the Nassau County District Attorney seeking disclosure of his case file. Supreme Court granted the petition. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the case file was appropriately withheld under section 87(2)(e)(iii). The Court of Appeals reversed and remitted the matter to Supreme Court, holding that the Second Department applied the wrong standard in making its ruling. View "Friedman v. Rice" on Justia Law

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Applying the strict equivalency test to the facts of this case, the Court of Appeals held that Defendant’s Georgia conviction for burglary was equivalent to a violent felony in New York, and therefore, Defendant was properly sentenced as a second violent felony offender based upon that previous conviction. Defendant pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. At sentencing, the trial court determined that Defendant must be punished as a second violent felony offender based on his previous Georgia conviction for burglary and sentenced him accordingly. The Appellate Division reversed, ruling that the Georgia conviction was not the equivalent of a New York violent felony. The Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated Defendant’s sentence as a second violent felony offender, holding that Defendant may be sentenced as a predicate felon based on his Georgia conviction. View "People v. Helms" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals declined Defendant’s invitation to expand the holding in People v. Syville, 15 NY3d 319 (N.Y. 2010), to situations in which retained trial counsel timely filed a notice of appeals but allegedly failed to advise the defendant of his or her right to poor person relief or to take any action when served with a motion to dismiss the appeal years after the notice of appeal was filed. Syville held that, in certain circumstances, coram nobis may be available for a defendant who demonstrated that he or she timely requested that trial counsel file a notice of appeal, the attorney failed to comply, and the omission could not reasonably have been discovered within the one-year time limit. The Court of Appeals declined Defendant’s invitation to expand Syville and instead held that coram nobis was unavailable where Defendant failed to meet his burden of proving that counsel was ineffective. View "People v. Arjune" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law