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In a recent case decided in a New York appellate court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his conviction for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. On appeal, one of the defendant’s main arguments was that the trial court had improperly denied his motion to suppress; according to him, evidence of the gun he possessed was unfairly used against him during trial and that under the exclusionary rule the fruit of an unlawful search should not be used as evidence. Disagreeing with the defendant, the court denied the appeal.

Facts of the Case

The opinion included a retelling of the following facts: the defendant in this case was in his car one day in 2017 when the police pulled him over. According to the opinion, the police had received a 911 call that the defendant, who was a parolee wanted on an outstanding warrant, had been spotted as a passenger in a certain vehicle. The officers tracked down the car and followed it, eventually pulling the defendant over to investigate.

In a recent case involving a New York drug crime, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his conviction of three counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. In the appeal, the defendant argued that statements taken in violation of his Miranda rights should have been suppressed at trial. The appeals court denied his case, finding the defendant’s spontaneous statements were made outside of custodial interrogation and the officers were permitted to question him in order to best respond to his urgent medical needs.  Generally, for a statement yo be suppressed because Miranda warnings were not given, the statement in question must be the result of “custodial interrogation.”  That is a statement that was made in response to a question while the person being questioned is in “custody” as opposed to perhaps bein detained temporarily for investigation.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was arrested following an investigation by law enforcement officials into a suspected drug smuggling and sale operation. Operating under information from a confidential informant, law enforcement officials surveilled and observed several drug transactions where the defendant sold drugs to the confidential informant. In response, a search warrant was executed and physical evidence was recovered. The defendant was taken into custody and transported to a correctional facility. At the correctional facility, the officers observed the defendant to be sweating, warm to the touch, and spitting out a chewed plastic bag. These observations gave rise to a reasonable inference that the defendant may need medical attention because he had consumed narcotics.

The Decision

The defendant raised several arguments on appeal. The defendant argued statements he made to law enforcement prior to being notified of his Miranda rights should be suppressed. Additionally, the defendant argued the sentence issued by the county court penalized him for exercising his right to a jury trial. According to the defendant, statements made to law enforcement officers as he was transported to the correctional facility were during custodial interrogation and in violation of his Miranda rights. Further, the defendant argued statements taken by law enforcement officers at the correctional facility should also have been suppressed under Miranda.

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As we have discussed in the past often in New York criminal cases suppression of the evidence may be your best (or only defense.  As has been widely reported in the media, all charges were recently dismissed against one of our clients after the Court granted our motion to controvert a search warrant and suppressed all of the evidence recovered during a search of our client’s house.  While in can be difficult to have a motion to controvert a search warrant granted by the Court, recent case law makes it easier to file and win such a motion.  When a motion to controvert a search warrant is granted, the Court is deciding that the search warrant was not valid and therefore the evidence obtained during the execution of the search warrant may not be used in Court.

Article 710 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law sets out the procedure to file a motion to suppress tangible evidence that is obtained  as a result of an “unlawful search and seizure.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which covers New York State has established that a warrant must at a minimum have three components.  One is that the warrant must identify the specific crime for which law enforcement has established probable cause.  Then the warrant must particularly describe the places that are allowed to be searched and the things that may be seized with their relationship to the crime.

New York’s highest Court, the New York Court of Appeals has further refined New York’s warrant requirement.  (See,  People v. Brown, 96 NY2d 80).  At a minimum the warrant must particularly describe the places to be searched and the things to be seized.  The idea is to ensure that the police have no discretion in either the places to be searched or the things that are permitted to be seized.  Exploratory warrants that give police the discretion to look around for evidence are unlawful.  If either of those elements are lacking the warrant may be invalid and any evidence suppressed.  This is true even though a Judge has signed and authorized the search warrant.

In a recent New York drug case, the defendant successfully appealed his conviction for drug possession. When the defendant was originally charged in 2018, the officer arresting him failed to provide specific enough information that would allow a court to conclude that the defendant possessed illegal drugs. Because the defendant successfully argued that this officer’s error meant that he never should have been charged and convicted in the first place, the court of appeals reversed his guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged approximately four years ago with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. When the arresting officer wrote out the accusatory statement that is necessary in every criminal case, the officer described the drug as “synthetic cannabinoid/synthetic marijuana.”

The defendant pled guilty to possession and was sentenced to a conditional discharge. He later appealed after consulting with an attorney, learning that the officer’s original statement did not provide enough specificity to qualify as adequate grounds for the State to criminally charge him. Originally, the court denied the defendant’s request, but the defendant appealed once more. This time, a higher court concluded that the defendant had successfully argued his case and that his conviction should indeed be reversed.

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We have discussed in past blogs how New York’s speedy trial statute can be effectively used in many criminal cases.  In a recent case coming out of a New York court, the defendant appealed convictions for three misdemeanor counts and three traffic infractions that had arisen in 2014. On appeal, the defendant argued that an amendment to New York’s speedy trial statute should apply retroactively; thus, he was entitled to a dismissal. The court of appeals considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately disagreed, explaining that the statute in question did not apply to the offense for which the defendant was seeking relief.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, approximately eight years ago, the defendant was criminally charged based on traffic violations. 17 months after being charged, the defendant moved to dismiss the charges based on a New York statute that guarantees defendants the right to a speedy trial. The statute includes provisions stating that if a defendant is subject to unreasonable delay because the prosecution is not ready for trial, that defendant can use this statute to argue for a dismissal. At the time of his motion to dismiss, however, the statute did not apply to defendants charged with traffic infractions. Thus, the defendant’s argument was unsuccessful.

In 2019, however, the legislature changed the language of the New York statute, explicitly including defendants charged with traffic infractions as individuals eligible for dismissal because of unreasonable prosecutorial delay. Upon hearing this news, the defendant again brought up this argument, stating that now he was in the class of people that could benefit from the statute. The court of appeals was thus faced with the decision of whether or not the defendant’s case could indeed be dismissed because of the statute.

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In a recent New York sexual abuse case, the defendant unsuccessfully argued that he had the right to a jury trial under the U.S. Constitution. After being charged with and several sex crimes, the defendant asked for a jury trial so that he could get a fair hearing before potentially being found guilty, and thus being found deportable back to his country of origin. Because the court of appeals disagreed with the defendant’s main argument, it ultimately denied the appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an undercover police officer was standing on a train platform in June 2015 when he observed the defendant standing nearby. The defendant seemed to be masturbating, although the officer was not entirely certain what was happening at the time. A few minutes later, the defendant pushed himself onto a nearby woman, then ran away to board a train. Immediately, the defendant pushed himself onto a second woman.

The defendant was charged with two counts of forcible touching, two counts of sexual abuse, and one count of public lewdness. Because the defendant was not a U.S. citizen, he faced the threat of potential deportation if convicted of the crimes. The crimes were Class B misdemeanors, which means that the defendant did not have the right to a jury trial under state law – he could only secure a jury trial if the misdemeanors had been Class A.

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In a recent case involving a New York Sex Crime , the defendant successfully appealed his conviction of predatory sexual assault against a child. The defendant was originally found guilty in November 2016, after he went through a jury trial based on his charges and received an unfavorable verdict. He was sentenced to time in prison, but he successfully appealed the decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant sexually abused several children below the age of 13 at his residence in New York. The year before he was charged, the defendant watched the children various times in his home, given that the children’s parents were neighbors of his and used the defendant as a babysitter when they had to leave the building. On several different occasions, the children’s parents had dropped them off at the defendant’s home, and he had committed some kind of predatory sexual assault on the children during these visits.

The Opinion

The defendant was convicted of two counts of predatory sexual assault as well as endangering the welfare of a child. On appeal, the defendant argued that the predatory sexual assault conviction should be reversed, and the court ended up agreeing with his argument. According to the defendant, an individual is only guilty of predatory sexual assault against a child in the first degree when he commits the crime at least twice over a period of three months or more. Here, said the defendant, while there was evidence that he had assaulted the children in question, there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that this activity had happened over a period of at least three months. Thus, the defendant’s actions did not align with the definition of the crime, and his conviction should be reversed.

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In a recent case involving a New York gun crime, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his conviction of attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. In the appeal, the defendant argued that the officer who found the weapon in question had no right to search his private vehicle, and the trial court should have suppressed the incriminating evidence. Disagreeing with the defendant and discussing the plain view doctrine, the court denied the appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a police officer was patrolling one evening when he came across a parked car on the highway. The officer immediately saw an open bottle of tequila in the car and smelled alcohol coming from the general vicinity of the car. Because New York law prohibits possession of open containers on public highways, the officer opened the car to investigate the situation.  The Court decided that the officer had the legal right to do this since it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the car.

Not only did the officer confirm what he suspected – that the bottle indeed was full of tequila – but he also found an open backpack in the car on the passenger’s side floorboard. Inside the backpack the police officer found a pistol magazine. The officer arrested and charged the defendant with attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.

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In a recent opinion decided in a New York appellate court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his New York firearm case. The defendant was originally found guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and unlawful possession of pistol ammunition. When evaluating the defendant’s appeal, the court used a four-level test that is common in New York criminal law to assess the legitimacy of interactions between police officers and pedestrians. Determining that the interaction between the officer and the defendant in this case was legitimate, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

The defendant was charged after an interaction with a police officer in 2019. According to the opinion, the officer had received a tip that the defendant had a firearm on his person, so the officer approached the defendant to investigate the situation. When the officer asked the defendant to take his hands out of his pockets, the defendant refused, instead pushing past the officer in an attempt to evade the interaction.

The officer then grabbed the defendant’s pocket. At this point, it became clear to the officer that the defendant had a gun in his pocket, and he used force to stop the defendant so that he could fully investigate the situation. The officer found the gun, and the defendant was arrested and charged accordingly.

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ANY OTHER WEAPONS

We have written in the past extensively about the Mossberg Shockwave, Remington Tac-14 and AR-15 others.  The basic principle involves a weapon that is not designed to be fired from the shoulder so that it cannot be legallyupdate considered to be a rifle or shotgun and is defined to be fired with two hands so does not meet the legal definition of a pistol.  Therefore, the restrictions on barrel length of shotguns and rifles did not apply as long as the overall length of the weapon was greater than 26 inches.  In addition, since these guns were neither pistols, shotguns nor rifles they could have collapsible stocks, flash suppressors and/or bayonet lugs and not fall into the definition of “assault weapons”.  Despite the fact that these “others” don’t seem to be the source of any significant crime this upset the gun grabbers.  Now under the new law they are regulated and probably need to be added to a pistol license to be kept.

The new law signed by Governor Kathy Hochul on June 6, 2022, redefines the term firearm in New York.  Under New York Law, a firearm requires a license to be issued in order to legally possess the firearm just like any handgun.  The new law amends Penal law sec. 265.00 (3) to include in the definition of firearm: any other weapon which is not otherwise defined in Penal law 265.00 and which is designed or can be converted to fire a projectile by the force of an explosive.

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