Articles Posted in Criminal 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

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An appellant’s failure to file an affidavit of errors with the criminal court if the underlying proceedings were not recorded by a court reporter in order to appeal a judgment of a local criminal court renders the intermediate appellate court without jurisdiction to hear the case. The jury trial of Defendant, who was charged with criminal contempt in the second degree, was held in a local town court, which is not a court of record, and no court stenographer was present during the proceedings. Defendant was convicted and sentenced. Defendant filed a notice of appeal but did not file an affidavit of errors with the court. County Court upheld Defendant’s conviction but reduced her year-long jail sentence to six months. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) Defendant’s appeal was improperly entertained by the intermediate appellate court; but (2) under the circumstances of this case, this case is remitted to the County court to permit that court’s exercise of discretion in connection with Defendant’s motion to file a late affidavit of errors. View "People v. Flores" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law (CPL) 380.40 entitles a defendant to be present personally at the time sentence is pronounced for the re-imposition of the defendant’s original prison sentence under N.Y. Penal Law 70.85 unless he or she validly forfeits or waives the right to be present. In 2001, Defendant pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree and attempted murder in the second degree and was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. In 2009, Defendant filed a motion to vacate his plea and sentence under People v. Catu, 825 N.E.2d 1081 (N.Y. 2005) because he had not been informed of the term of post-release supervision (PRS) to follow his prison sentence. At a court appearance at which the prosecutor and Defendant’s attorney were present but Defendant himself was absent, Supreme Court denied Defendant’s motion to vacate his plea and re-imposed his original sentence, without a term of PRS, under section 70.85. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because there was no voluntary wavier, Defendant’s absence from the sentencing proceeding was in itself, under precedent, an error because it constituted a violation of his right under CPL 380.40. View "People v. Estremera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law (VTL) 397, which provides that a person - not a police officer but someone acting pursuant to his special duties - who equips or operates a motor vehicle with a radio capable of receiving signals on the frequencies allocated for police use does not require that the prohibited device be physically attached to the motor vehicle. The prosecution filed an accusatory instrument alleging that Defendant operated a pick-up truck bearing the name of a tow truck company while having inside his jacket pocket a police scanner. Criminal Court dismissed the accusatory instrument on the ground that there were no allegations that the scanner was specifically prepared to be used with a vehicle. The Appellate Term reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the information was facially sufficient to establish reasonable cause to believe Defendant violated VTL 397. View "People v. Andujar" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A due process violation occurs when the sole judge deciding a criminal defendant’s appeal as of right is the same judge who also presided over the defendant’s pretrial motions and bench trial. In this case, due process required the judge’s recusal. Defendant was charged with driving while ability impaired. Defendant moved to dismiss the charges against him. The judge presiding in city court denied Defendant’s motion. The same judge subsequently found Defendant guilty as charged at a bench trial. During the pendency of Defendant’s appeal, the same judge who had presided over Defendant’s bench trial was elected to county court. That same judge then upheld Defendant’s judgment of conviction and sentence on appeal. The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the county court, holding that this matter must be remitted to county court for Defendant’s appeal to be heard by a different judge. View "People v. Novak" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeals in this care reaffirmed its longstanding rule that a warrantless arrest of a suspect in the threshold of a residence is permissible under the Fourth Amendment, provided that the suspect has voluntarily answered the door and the police have not crossed the threshold. Defendant was arrested without a warrant inside the doorway of his home. Defendant was later convicted of four counts of third-degree robbery and one count of attempted third-degree robbery. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress, arguing that the police violated Payton v. New York, 455 U.S. 573 (1980), by entering his home without consent or a warrant. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the police never entered Defendant’s home, and therefore, the intrusion prohibited by Payton did not occur; (2) despite the urging of Defendant and two dissenting colleagues, this court refuses to adopt a new rule that warrantless “threshold/doorway arrests” violate Payton when the only reason the arrestee is in the doorway is that he or she was summoned there by police; and (3) there is no compelling justification to overrule prior precedent to recognize a new category of Payton violations based on subjective police intent. View "People v. Garvin" on Justia Law

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The trial court’s introduction of DNA evidence through the testimony of a witness who had not performed, witness or supervised the generation of DNA profiles to prove an essential fact for a finding of guilt violated Defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. Defendant was charged with three burglaries and several related offenses in connection with two separate incidents in June 2009 and September 2009. During trial, a criminalist was permitted to testify, over Defendant’s hearsay objections, and without having conducted, witnessed or supervised the generation of the DNA profiles, that the DNA profile generated from Defendant’s buccal swab was a match to the DNA profile generated from evidence found at the crime scenes. The jury found Defendant guilty of two counts of burglary in the third degree and criminal mischief in the fourth degree relating to the June 2009 burglaries and acquitted Defendant of the counts relating to the September 2009 burglary. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the introduction of the hearsay DNA evidence through surrogate testimony to prove that Defendant was the perpetrator of the burglaries at issue violated Defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. View "People v. Austin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law