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The New York State Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), has added a very serious consequence to the commission of many crimes.  The requirements of SORA apply to both New York State convictions and to conviction from other states, if the convicted person is or becomes a New York resident.  Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case discussing whether a defendant who was convicted for the murder of his 13-year-old sister in Virginia was required to register under the New York State Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Ultimately, the court concluded that registration was not required based on the fact that the defendant was not required to register as a “sex offender” in Virginia.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was convicted for the murder of his 13-year-old sister in Virginia back in 1989. It was undisputed that there was no sexual element involved in the killing. However, as a result of that conviction, the defendant was required to register for life under Virginia’s Crimes Against Minors Registry Act, which required registration for numerous offenses, including some that were not sexual in nature.

After serving his sentence, the defendant moved to New York. Upon arriving, the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders was notified and required the defendant to register as a Level III offender. The defendant challenged the registration requirement.

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A police officer cannot stop a pedestrian or motorist for just any reason. New York criminal law requires that an officer possesses reasonable suspicion before initiating a pedestrian stop or motor-vehicle stop. Specifically, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that “a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed.” An officer’s reasonable suspicion cannot rest on a “hunch,” and must be supported by articulable facts.

In a recent New York gun crime case, a state appellate court issued an opinion discussing the concept of reasonable suspicion and whether the officer that arrested the defendant for a gun while on a public bus possessed such suspicion when he asked the defendant if he had a gun. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer did possess a reasonable suspicion and affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, police officers responded to a call for a shooting. Upon arrival, police located a gun-shot victim, who described the alleged shooter as a male wearing all black clothing, including a black hoodie. The victim also told the officers that the alleged shooter got on a bus at a nearby stop.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York forgery case discussing whether concert and sport event tickets can fall within the statute governing criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree. Ultimately, the court concluded that tickets to concerts or sporting events affect the possessor’s legal rights, and therefore fall within the statute. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s convictions. If you have questions about any aspect of criminal law, it is crucial to reach out to a New York criminal defense attorney to get answers.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was arrested in possession of counterfeit concert tickets. Subsequently, he was arrested again for counterfeit sporting event tickets. In each case, the defendant was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree which is described in New York Statutes section 170.10. Under that statute, a person is prohibited from falsely making, completing, or altering a written instrument with the intent to defraud another. This prohibition applies to deeds, wills, contracts, and any “other instrument which [impacts] a legal right, interest, obligation or status.”

The defendant argued that the tickets were merely revocable licenses and that they did not affect a holder’s legal rights. He also argued that a concert ticket or ticket to a sporting event was nothing like the other items listed in the statute, and thus were not intended to be covered by the statute. The defendant’s argument was rejected by the trial court, and he subsequently entered a guilty plea to the charges. On appeal, the defendant argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, essentially making the same argument as he did at trial.

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The issue of whether a statement taken by New York CPS workers after a defendant had been arrested in a related criminal case and the defendant’s right to counsel had attached, was recently discussed by a New York Appellate Court.  After police make an arrest, they will often bring the arrestee in for questioning. What is said during this questioning can be crucial. Therefore, before questioning someone about their involvement in a crime, police must read the arrestee specific warnings. These warnings – often called the Miranda warnings – explain the rights of the arrestee. Notably, these include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

If a statement is taken by a law enforcement official in the absence of these warnings, the statement may be inadmissible in court because it was taken in violation of the defendant’s rights. However, only statements made during “custodial interrogation” by a law enforcement official require miranda warnings.   A recent New York assault case illustrates the limits of a defendant’s rights to be free from questioning by a government employee who is not a non-law enforcement official.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was charged with several assault charges stemming from a December 2014 incident in which he was alleged to have struck the mother of his child with a crowbar. At the time of the alleged offense, the defendant’s six-year-old child was present.

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Recently, a New York state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun possession case discussing the concept of constructive possession as well as the state’s “automobile presumption.” Ultimately, the court concluded that the jury’s verdict finding that the defendant possessed the gun was supported by the evidence and that the lower court’s instruction to the jury was appropriate under the circumstances.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, during routine patrol police officers observed a van with a missing tail light and initiated a traffic stop. The van did not stop, and sped away. Police officers followed the van and watched as a black object was thrown out of the rear passenger door. The officers continued to follow the van until it stopped, at which point an unidentified man ran from the van. The defendant exited the van and was arrested by police. Police later went back to obtain the object that was discarded from the van, and discovered that it was a shotgun. A shotgun shell was found during a search of the vehicle.

The case proceeded to trial, and at the conclusion of the evidence the court instructed the jury on the automobile presumption, which states that the presence of a gun inside a vehicle is presumed to belong to each person inside the vehicle unless the vehicle was stolen or the weapon was found on one of the occupants. The automobile presumption is an application of a legal theory called “constructive possession” which allows a jury to infer a defendant possessed an object based on the surrounding facts.

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A New York state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun case presenting an interesting issue. Specifically, the case requires the court to determine if the defendant’s arrest was illegal because a U.S. Customs agent initiated a traffic stop outside of his jurisdiction and without authority to conduct the stop.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a U.S. Customs agent was traveling on the highway in an unmarked truck when he observed the defendant driving dangerously. After the agent unsuccessfully tried to reach police through the radio in his vehicle, he called 911. As the agent was on hold with 911, the defendant’s vehicle exited the highway.

The agent continued to follow the defendant and eventually engaged his vehicle’s emergency overhead lights to stop the defendant. The defendant stopped, and the agent waited for on-duty officers to arrive, at which point the agent was sent home. During a search of the defendant’s car, a gun was found. The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a firearm.

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Recently, a New York court issued a written opinion in a New York DWI case granting the defendant’s motion to suppress the results of the field sobriety tests administered by the arresting officer. The court also granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the results of the chemical testing that was performed on the defendant’s breath.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was pulled over by a police officer after the officer believed he had witnessed a traffic violation. Evidently, the officer was about 300 feet behind the defendant’s vehicle with another car between them when the officer saw the defendant’s car swerve within its lane. The officer testified that the swerving lasted for a few seconds. At one point, the defendant’s car briefly crossed the fog line and then returned to its lane.

The officer explained that after he pulled the defendant’s vehicle over, he noticed that the defendant smelled of alcohol. A field sobriety test was administered, and the defendant was arrested and taken to the station for a breath-alcohol test. The defendant was later charged with two counts of DUI and filed a motion to suppress the field sobriety and chemical test results.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun possession case discussing two important concepts that frequently come up in any case involving a possessory offense, including New York drug crimes. Ultimately, the court concluded that the police officers acted appropriately and it denied the defendant’s motion to suppress a gun that was found in the trunk of his car.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a firearm after police officers discovered a handgun in the trunk of a car the defendant was driving. According to the court’s written opinion, the police officers claimed that they initially approached the vehicle to request information from another man whose entire upper body was inside the trunk. As the officers approached the car, they noticed a gun in the trunk in plain view. The officers seized the weapon and arrested the defendant.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that the police were not justified in their approach of the vehicle and anything stemming from that illegal approach should be suppressed. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress and the defendant appealed.

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As we have discussed many times, experienced criminal defense lawyers know, that seeking suppression of evidence can often be the best defense to a crime charging possession (of drugs, guns or other illegal items).  Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun possession case. The case required the court to determine if the trial court properly granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. Ultimately, the court concluded that the police officers lacked probable cause to arrest the defendant, and affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress.  In this case, both the trial Court and the Appellate Court concluded that the police lacked probable cause to arrest someone who was found to be in possession of a handgun magazine.  It is important to note however that had this case been decided in New York City, where the administrative code of the City of New York makes it a crime to possess handgun magazines, the results may have been different.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police received a call reporting a dispute at a local bar that possibly involved a gun. Upon arrival, police spoke to the bartender who told them that the defendant was the one suspected of having a gun. Police patted the defendant down, discovering that he had two ammunition clips in his pockets.

Police then arrested the defendant. A post-arrest search revealed no weapons, but the defendant’s car – which was parked across the street – was towed and impounded. The defendant was read his Miranda rights and consented to a search of the vehicle. While searching the trunk of the car, police recovered a stolen .45 caliber handgun.

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Character evidence is one of the most misunderstood types of evidence available.  It is also evidence that can backfire on the party calling the witness.  As a rule, all relevant evidence is admissible in New York criminal trials. Relevant evidence is defined as evidence “having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the proceeding” more or less likely. However, the general rule that all relevant evidence is admissible is subject to many exceptions.

One type of evidence that may intuitively seem like it would be admissible in a criminal trial, but is generally excluded from evidence, is evidence of a defendant’s prior bad acts. This includes both charged and uncharged crimes. Under the New York evidentiary rules, prior bad acts are “not admissible to prove that the person acted in conformity therewith on a particular occasion or had a propensity to engage in a wrongful act or acts. Essentially, this means that the government cannot use evidence of past crimes or wrongs to prove that a defendant was more likely to have committed the charged crimes there may however be other reasons why such prior crimes are admissible. This is why, absent a few exceptions, a defendant’s criminal history is not admissible if the defendant does not testify at the trial.

Evidence of a defendant’s prior bad acts, however, can be admissible in some situations where the government is introducing the evidence for a permissible purpose; for example to establish motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, common scheme or plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake or accident. A recent case illustrates how New York courts handle this issue.

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