Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that the automobile stop in this case was unlawful and clarified the law of New York as it is presently understood by all four Appellate Division departments, holding that the Appellate Courts are unanimous in employing the elevated probable cause standard set forth in People v. Robinson, 97 NY2d 341 (2001), required for an officer to validly stop a vehicle for a Vehicle and Traffic violation.Defendant was charged with firearms-related and drug-related offenses. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the trooper who stopped his vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion to do so. County Court denied suppression of the physical evidence, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered that Defendant's motion to suppress be granted in its entirety, holding that the trooper in this case lacked probable cause to believe that Defendant had committed a traffic violation and identified no credible facts establishing reasonable cause to believe that Defendant had violated a law. View "People v. Hinshaw" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction for murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, holding that the trial court did not conduct a "reasonably thorough inquiry" into a sitting juror's unavailability before substituting an alternate juror during Defendant's trial.On the ninth day of Defendant's murder trial, the judge informed the parties that Juror Number 9 was absent. Without stating that it was ordering the substitution, the judge proceeded with Alternate Juror 1 seated in place of Juror Number 9. Alternate Juror 1 served for the remainder of the trial. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, on the record, the court failed to satisfy the requirement that a trial court conduct a "reasonably thorough inquiry" to ensure that its substitution determination is adequately informed. View "People v. Lang" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the decisions of the courts below granting Defendant's motion to suppress evidence recovered from a vehicle search, holding that the lower courts erred in relying on this Court's decision in People v. Williams, 4 N.Y.3d 535 (2005), in granting the motion to suppress.Using the emergency lights on his unmarked vehicle, a federal marine interdiction agent with the United States Customs and Border Protection stopped the driver of a vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger for driving dangerously on a public highway. The agent waited in his truck for members of the police department, who searched the vehicle upon their arrival. Defendant moved to suppress the gun recovered from the search as stemming from an unlawful seizure. Relying on Williams, Defendant argued that the stop was not a valid citizen's arrest because the agent used his emergency lights to effectuate the stop. Supreme Court granted the motion. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the agent's conduct did not violate the Legislature's prescribed limits on a peace officer's arrest powers because he was not, in fact, a peace officer; and (2) thus, this Court's decision in Williams was inapposite. View "People v. Page" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law (CPL) 710.70(2) grants a defendant the right to review of a suppression decision when the order related exclusively to a count that was satisfied by a guilty plea but was not one to which the defendant pleaded guilty.Defendant was charged with two counts of burglary in the second degree. The first count related to a laptop computer, and the second count related to jewelry. Defendant moved to suppress the jewelry, but Supreme Court denied the motion. Defendant then pleaded guilty to one count of burglary in the second degree as charged in the count pertaining to the theft of the laptop computer, in satisfaction of the count charging the burglary of jewelry. On appeal, Defendant argued that Supreme Court erred in denying his motion to suppress the jewelry. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that it was jurisdictionally precluded from reviewing the suppression order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) Defendant's right to appellate review of Supreme Court's suppression order was secured by CPL 710.70(2); and (2) because the Appellate Division did not reach the underlying suppression question the case must be remitted to the Appellate Division for further proceedings. View "People v. Holz" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division concluding on direct appeal that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, holding that Defendant, on this record, did not sustain his burden to establish that counsel was constitutionally ineffective.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial counsel's failure to challenge a prospective juror constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the record was inadequate to review Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim; and (2) the appropriate procedure for the litigation of Defendant's challenge to his counsel's performance was a N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 440.10 motion. View "People v. Maffei" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction and affirmed the denial of Defendant's pro se motion pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law (CPL) 440.10 to vacate his conviction of attempted burglary in the second degree, holding that Defendant did not preserve his due process claim that the trial court failed to inform him of potential immigration consequences as a result of his conviction and that Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion in summarily rejecting Defendant's CPL 440.10 motion.Defendant was served, in open court and months before the plea proceedings leading up to his plea of guilty to attempted burglary in the second degree, with a "Notice of Immigration Consequences" form. In affirming both Defendant's conviction on his direct appeal and Supreme Court's denial of Defendant's CPL 440.10 motion the Appellate Division concluded that provision of the notice to Defendant meant that his direct appeal did not fit within "the narrow exception to the preservation requirement." The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's claim on appeal was unpreserved as a matter of law, and no exception to the preservation rule applied; and (2) Supreme Court acted within its discretion in denying Defendant's CPL 440.10 motion without a hearing. View "People v. Delorbe" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder, holding that the trial court abused its discretion as a matter of law in admitting certain DNA evidence without holding a hearing pursuant to Frye v. United States, 293 F 1013 (DC Cir. 1923), but the error was harmless.At issue in this case was whether the trial court erred in admitting low copy number (LCN) DNA evidence and the results of a statistical analysis conducted using the proprietary forensic statistical tool (FST) developed and controlled by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner without holding a Frye hearing. The Appellate Division refused to disturb the trial court's determination denying Defendant's motion for an order directing that a Frye hearing be held with respect to the reliability of any proposed evidence generated through LCN and FST review. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the trial court abused its discretion as a matter of law in denying a Frye hearing, but the error was harmless; and (2) none of Defendant's remaining arguments on appeal had merit. View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division, holding that Defendant's prior New Jersey conviction was within the scope endangering the welfare of a child under New York law, and therefore, the courts below did not err in assessing Defendant thirty points under risk factor nine of the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) risk assessment when determining Defendant's presumptive risk level.In 1999, Defendant was convicted in New Jersey for lewdness in the fourth degree. At issue in this appeal was whether Defendant was properly assessed thirty points under risk factor nine for the New Jersey conviction. The Court of Appeals held that the assessment was warranted and that Defendant's adjudication as a level two Sex Offender was correct because Defendant's prior New Jersey conviction was tantamount to endangering the welfare of a child under New York law. View "People v. Perez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this criminal proceeding, the Court of Appeals held that the Appellate Division correctly concluded that the sentencing court erred in unsealing the court record of the proceeding in which Defendant was acquitted but erred in concluding that Defendant was not entitled to a remedy for the trial court's violation of N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 160.50, holding that the sentence should be vacated.Defendant pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a controlled substance. Before sentencing, Defendant was prosecuted for a crime he allegedly committed after entering his plea. The jury acquitted Defendant of the new charge, and the official record was sealed. In sentencing Defendant for his possession charge, the court unsealed the records in the prior criminal action. Based in part on Defendant's trial testimony in the sealed proceeding, the court deviated upward from the court's promised sentence. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court erred in unsealing the records of the proceeding terminated by acquittal and improperly considered Defendant's trial testimony in deciding not to adhere to the promised sentence; and (2) because the court's sentence was based on that testimony, the proper remedy was to remit for resentencing without reference to the contents of the sealed records. View "People v. Anonymous" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court denying Defendant's motion to set aside his sentence of six months of incarceration, imposed upon his guilty plea to third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, on the ground that the sentence was illegally lenient, holding that the denial of Defendant's motion was not reviewable.Over a fifteen-year period, Defendant committed numerous felonies, some of them violent, yet avoided enhanced sentences. In 1997, Defendant was sentenced as a persistent violent felony offender based upon his criminal convictions in 1988 and 1991. In 2015, Defendant collaterally moved to set aside his 1988 sentence of six months of incarceration under N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 440.20 on the ground that the sentence was illegally lenient. Supreme Court denied the motion. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that because Defendant was not adversely affected by the error in sentencing on the 1988 conviction, his motion must be rejected without consideration of its merits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that when a defendant moves to vacate a sentence on the ground that it is illegally lenient, denial of the motion is not reviewable because any purported error in the proceedings has not adversely affected the defendant. View "People v. Francis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law