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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York homicide case involving a defendant’s appeal of his conviction. The defendant appealed the lower court’s decision to admit his statement to police in the moments after the murder. However, the appellate court found that there was no error in admitting the statement. The court further explained that, if there was any error in admitting the statement, doing so was harmless.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was alleged to have killed another man, whom he met out on the street around 2 a.m. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was drinking beer with friends. Throughout the evening, the defendant expressed some violent thoughts, and discussed his gang membership.

With Corona Virus (Covid-19) restrictions increasing just a week before Thanksgiving and the Governor of New York dictating how many people may attend a Thanksgiving Dinner at your house it is worth reviewing what rights you have if police unexpectedly show up at your door.  This situation could arise for a variety of reasons including a crime committed nearby having nothing to do with you and the police just wanting to canvass the area for witnesses and/or cameras or a noise complaint or some other complaint called in by your neighbors.    Often police may accompany a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker responding to a child abuse or neglect report or the police may sometimes knock and ask questions about a missing child, or adult.  In any case, it is important to understand your rights.

Firstly, Courts recognize the right of the police officers to approach your door and knock or ring the door bell.  Secondly, it is important to recognize that police officers are people, just like anyone else.  There job is difficult and important and they should be treated with courtesy and respect at all times.   It is also essential that you not give a police officer or anyone else that comes to your door any reason to fear for their safety by making any sudden movements or answering the door with a visible weapon.

There is absolutely no requirement that you answer the door if the police knock.  Just as if a police officer were to approach you on the street you have no obligation to speak to the officer and no obligation to answer the door.  The police officer may not enter your home except with your consent, with a search warrant, arrest warrant or in some very narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement.  Rarely, will police officers have a warrant and then casually knock on the door.  If they have a warrant they will either break down the door without  knocking or announce that they are the police and that they have a warrant and that they will breakdown the door if you don’t open the door immediately.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York manslaughter case, affirming the defendant’s conviction after dismissing his challenge to the way in which the prosecution obtained a sample of his DNA. In so doing, the court explained how law enforcement officials can legally obtain DNA evidence from a suspect who has yet to be charged with a crime.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, four men belonging to the gang, Young Gunnaz, drove a Gold Nissan into a rival gang’s territory. The person in the car’s passenger seat exited the vehicle and shot and killed a 16-year-old. The incident was caught by a surveillance camera, but no identification could be made from the footage.

Law enforcement tracked down the owner of the Gold Nissan, who became a cooperating witness. He identified the defendant as the shooter, and explained that, after the shooting, the men went back to their apartment building. The driver allowed the police to take a DNA sample from the car’s front passenger seat area.

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Throughout the New York criminal trial process, it is not uncommon for comments or evidence to come into the trial that could prejudice either side. Courts take precautions to instruct attorneys and witnesses not to say certain things, and to avoid particular topics. However, the jury will inevitably be exposed to comments or evidence that it should not have seen or heard. When this happens, it may result in a mistrial. However, courts are reluctant to declare a mistrial unless absolutely necessary and, in many cases, will provide the jury with a “curative instruction” instead.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York assault case discussing whether a juror’s comments during the trial necessitated a mistrial. Ultimately, the appellate court held that the trial court’s curative instruction was sufficient to cure any prejudice to the defense.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was on trial for second-degree assault. Two other men were also on trial for the same crime. During the trial, in an attempt to goad the complaining witness, one of the defendants’ attorneys repeatedly asked the complaining witness whether he referred to the defendant by a racial slur. The defense attorney used the actual word, rather than self-editing. After repeating the word multiple times, one of the jurors stood up and exclaimed, “Please, I am not going to sit here . . . and have you say that again. Don’t say it again or I’m leaving. . . . I find that very offensive.”

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Earlier this month, a state appellate our released an opinion in a New York drug case in which the defendant was alleged to have sold cocaine. The defendant claimed that the evidence obtained as a result of his arrest must be suppressed, because it was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. Ultimately, the court agreed that the officers lacked justification to stop him, ordering a new trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were conducting an undercover drug surveillance. Officers sat in a car as they watched the defendant interact with another person. Although the officers were looking at the defendant’s back, and could not see what, if anything, was exchanged, they believed it to be a drug transaction.

The officers called in back-up to stop both the defendant, and the alleged buyer. Officers pulled the defendant over and immediately took him out of the car, and placed him in handcuffs. The officers then questioned the defendant, who admitted to possessing cocaine. The officers then retrieved cocaine from his pocket. Other officers stopped the alleged buyer and returned her to the scene, where she identified the defendant as the person who sold her the cocaine.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York robbery case discussing whether the defendant’s statements were admissible at trial. The defendant claimed that statements were not voluntary, as they were only made in response to factually incorrect comments made by the interviewing officers. Specifically, the defendant argued that by telling him that admitting to the crime would be better for him in the long-run, the police officers coerced him into making an admission. Not surprisingly, given the long history of police officers being allowed to lie to suspects, the court disagreed, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

The facts of the underlying offense are not laid out in the court’s opinion, as they are not relevant to the question before the court. However, the court explained that the defendant had been arrested on suspicion of robbery. After his arrest, the defendant waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with law enforcement. During the interrogation, officers told the defendant that it would be to his advantage to admit to them what happened. The defendant admitted to his role in the robbery.

In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant raised several arguments. However, he did not argue the issue he later raised on appeal.

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As New York DWI lawyers, we are following a recent state appellate court  opinion on a New York DWI case discussing the procedures law enforcement must use to legally conduct a DWI checkpoint. Ultimately, the court concluded that the checkpoint used by law enforcement leading to the defendant’s arrest was legal, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Drunk driving checkpoints are used throughout New York to catch intoxicated drivers. However, historically, these checkpoints have been used to target specific groups of motorists. Thus, courts have held that all DWI checkpoints must comply with certain guidelines; otherwise, they are unconstitutional.  It is important for attorneys that handle New York DWI’s to know the specific requirements for operating a constitutional checkpoint when conducting suppression hearings.

The Facts of the Case

The relevant facts in the case are straightforward: the defendant was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and eventually arrested for driving while intoxicated. Evidently, there were signs immediately before the checkpoint entrance, indicating the presence of law enforcement. All law enforcement were in marked cars with the vehicle’s emergency lights on, and all officers were wearing their uniforms. Additionally, the officers operating the checkpoint would stop every car that passed by. However, officers would not ask motorists for their license and proof of insurance, as not to impede the flow of traffic any more than necessary.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York drug case, affirming the defendant’s conviction. The court’s opinion, although brief, discusses what has come to be known as an eavesdropping warrant.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects all individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures. Over the years, courts have generally held that, to be “reasonable,” a search must be supported by probable cause. Most often, this requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to conduct a search. Of course, there are certain situations when a warrant is not needed, such as if the officer observes illegal conduct, or the search is conducted incident to a lawful arrest.

Absent an exception to the warrant requirement, law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search a person, their home, their car, or any other private area. Often, law enforcement officers want to search a physical place; however, if they want to search a suspect’s electronic communications, different rules apply.

Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York DWI case discussing the denial of the defendant’s pretrial motion to suppress. The case required the court to determine if the lower court properly denied the defendant’s motion based on the arresting officers’ credibility. Finding that there was no reason to conclude the officer’s testimony at trial was not credible, the court upheld the denial of the defendant’s motion.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s brief opinion, a police officer pulled the defendant over based on his observations that she had her high-beams on and failed to use her turn signal. During the traffic stop, the officer thought the defendant was intoxicated. Ultimately, he arrested the defendant for Driving While Intoxicated.

In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that any evidence of her intoxication should be suppressed based on the fact that the officer’s decision to stop her was unsupported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. At the motion, the police officer cited two reasons for stopping the defendant’s car. First, she improperly used her high-beams, and second, she failed to use her turn signal.

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A state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun possession case, last month,  requiring the court to determine if the police officers were justified in stopping the defendant’s vehicle for a traffic violation. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer lacked any basis to believe that a crime had occurred and there was no probable cause to stop the vehicle. Thus, the court held the defendant’s motion to suppress should have been granted and suppressed the firearm.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a state trooper ran the tags on the defendant’s vehicle. The response was: “CONFIRM RECORD WITH ORIGINATOR ** THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN REPORTED AS AN IMPOUNDED VEHICLE —IT SHOULD NOT BE TREATED AS A STOLEN VEHICLE HIT — NO FURTHER ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN BASED SOLELY UPON THIS IMPOUNDED RESPONSE **”

The trooper pulled the defendant over and, as he approached the vehicle, noticed a smell of marijuana and a burnt marijuana joint in the car. The defendant told the trooper that the car had previously been reported stolen, which may explain the message. The trooper searched both the defendant and the car, recovering marijuana and a loaded firearm under the driver’s seat.

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