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three mop handlesOne of the most critical aspects of a criminal trial is providing instructions to the jury before they begin their deliberations. Before the jury is instructed, the prosecution and defense can consult with the judge about the instructions that they believe should be provided. Whether the jury is instructed about a particular defense or presumption can have serious implications for your trial. As seasoned New York City criminal defense lawyers, we routinely assist defendants with ensuring that the jury receives the appropriate and lawful set of instructions.

A recent case demonstrates the importance of jury instructions. The facts of the case as follows. The defendant was charged with second-degree murder and other charges including assault and possession of a weapon involving the fatal shooting of one victim and the shooting of a second victim. The surviving victim was the primary witness during the defendant’s trial. Evidence at trial indicated that the parties knew one another and that the two victims were friends of the defendant’s mother’s tenant. The defendant, along with his mother, had grown frustrated about the men lingering around the apartment and had repeatedly contacted police authorities to have them removed. On the night the shooting occurred, the police refused to arrest the two victims, stating that they were not engaging in criminal activity out front of the apartment. The defendant made a statement to the police indicating that he may engage in violence toward the victims using a gun.

The next day, the defendant left his home with a gun concealed in his jacket. The defendant confronted the two men, who were standing outside of a nearby bodega. The men eventually engaged in an argument and one of the victims picked up a mop from inside the bodega. The evidence presented at trial suggested that the victim with the mop raised it toward the defendant, at which point the defendant revealed his firearm and shot at both victims, wounding one and killing the other. According to the record and the victim’s testimony, however, it was somewhat unclear whether the mop was raised at the same moment the defendant brandished the gun, or whether the mop was raised prior to the gunshot.

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In New York one may file a motion to vacate a conviction even after an appeal was denied. A person convicted of a criminal offense after a trial who has exhausted his appeals may still file what is commonly referred to as a “440” motion back in the original court where he was convicted.  Many times “440” motions are based upon newly discovered evidence.

Briefly, under CPL 440.10(1)(g), a court may vacate a conviction where new evidence has been discovered after trial, which could  not have been produced by the defendant at the trial and such evidence creates a probability of an outcome more favorable to the defendant.  Furthermore, the defendant must file his motion with due diligence after discovery of the new evidence.

Generally, however, such “new evidence” cannot be mere impeachment evidence.  In other words, such newly discovered evidence cannot simply be evidence that could have impeached the credibility of a prosecution witness.  However, this is not an absolute rule.  A court can vacate a conviction where the “key” prosecution witness lies at trial about prior criminal activity or other bad acts committed by him prior to him testifying.  In cases where courts have vacated convictions on such grounds, the witness who lied was the key or primary witness against the defendant and the case hinged on that witness’ credibility.

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New York’s new sealing law which authorizes the sealing of up to one felony conviction and two total convictions went into effect in New York last week and is already creating new possibilities for those with old criminal convictions.  Up until recently a New York expungement law would be considered to be almost impossible.  After all as experienced criminal defense lawyers there is rarely a week that goes by without a call from someone asking about “expunging” criminal convictions and we as attorneys were frustrated with what used to be the answer; that there was no way of sealing old criminal convictions in New York.old_dl_for_sample_docs-300x150

Like all the uncertainty surrounding all new laws no one really knows how impactful CPL 160.59  will be.  One factor will be whether prosecutors routinely oppose applications to seal under CPL 160.59 or not.  The other will be what types of hearings are used by the Court and lastly how generous will the Courts be in sealing old convictions.

Another question pertains to the use of prior alcohol related driving convictions to deny people driver’s licenses.  The New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is currently applying a twenty-five year look back and denying those with three or more alcohol related driving convictions reinstatement of their driver’s licenses.  These revocations are essentially turning into lifetime revocations.  As we reported last month, our firm has already filed a lawsuit against DMV because we believe that prior DWI convictions cannot be used to deny people licenses if the Court (or the Department of Corrections)  has issued a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct.

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orange prison clothesJury selection is one of the most important aspects of any case. At Tilem Law Offices, our seasoned New York gun crime lawyers have handled countless voir dire selection processes and understand just what it takes to make sure that you receive a fair jury. As a recent appellate opinion indicates, even the clothes you are wearing during jury selection may have an impact on your legal rights.

In the case, the defendant was arrested while entering a vehicle that was reported stolen at gunpoint nearly two weeks before. The defendant was charged with both first-degree and second-degree robbery. Before the jury selection phase of the trial, the defendant noted that he was not wearing his own clothing and that he was not provided with a chance to contact his family. The defendant requested an adjournment, which was granted. The judge granted the adjournment to allow the defendant a chance to obtain plain clothes, as opposed to the orange correctional facilities jumpsuit that he was wearing. After the adjournment, the defendant returned wearing a plain black top but still wearing orange correctional facility-issued sweatpants. Since the defendant was seated at the end of a long table, and since the judge believed that the jury would not be able to see the defendant’s sweatpants, the judge denied the defendant’s request to postpone jury selection until he could obtain plain clothes.

The prospective jurors were asked whether they noticed anything about the defendant. One indicated noticing that the defendant was in a wheelchair, which the parties explained was irrelevant to the case. Six jury members were selected that day. On the next day, the defendant was wearing a suit, and the jury selection process continued. Testimony from the victim and the arresting officer was provided, and the jury returned a verdict convicting the defendant of both counts of robbery.

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bank notebook paperMany individuals contact us after they are already involved in a criminal proceeding. Some of the most common issues that we deal with regarding ongoing criminal cases involve revoking an earlier guilty plea, which may have been provided before the defendant retained a reliable new york criminal defense lawyer. A recent case illustrates how difficult it can be to get rid of an earlier plea agreement.

The defendant faced charges of hindering with the prosecution in the first degree and possession of a weapon in the third degree for providing and concealing a weapon that a codefendant used during a shooting that resulted in a fatality. The night before the defendant’s trial was set to take place, the defendant entered a guilty plea regarding the lesser included offense of hindering the prosecution in the second degree. The defendant later testified that he assisted the co-defendant and believed that the co-defendant engaged in activities that resulted in a second-degree murder. The defendant also waived his right to appeal as part of the plea agreement.

The trial for the co-defendant proceeded and the prosecution offered evidence from the sole witness, which was the victim’s brother. The brother testified that he was at the victim’s apartment along with a number of other individuals when a dispute erupted and the co-defendant shot the victim. Other evidence presented at trial suggested that the brother may not have seen the shooter and was unclear about the events that occurred after the fight broke out. The prosecution later admitted to finding handwritten notes from an earlier interview with the brother suggesting that the brother did not see the co-defendant shoot the victim. The defendant was allowed to cross-examine the brother regarding these notes and attempted to impeach his credibility.

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As New York Criminal Defense lawyers we are constantly called about expunging old New York Criminal records and over the many years I have been in practice it has been frustrating to inform people whose lives have been forever altered by an old New York criminal conviction that there was no mechanism to seal or expunge a criminal conviction in New York.  In the past we have offered half measures such as certificates of relief from civil disabilities or certificates of good conduct.  However, great news has arrived.  Beginning in October 2017 the New New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 will go into effect permitting a motion to be made to seal up to two criminal convictions including one felony.  This is welcome news for anyone whose professional life is being held back by a past mistake.Records_MAIN-300x200-300x200

New York Criminal Procedure Law provides for sealing of up to two criminal convictions and up to one felony.  Convictions for violent felony offenses, homicides, sex offenses and any conviction that requires SORA (Sex Offender Registration) are ineligible for sealing as well as conspiracy of attempts to commit ineligible crimes.  In order to qualify for sealing the applicant must not have been convicted of a crime in the preceding 10 years and any time spent in prison or jail in that 10 year period is added back into the 10 years.  For example if a person served 5 years in prison after a conviction they would need to wait 15 years before they could apply for sealing under CPL 160.59.

Procedurally, CPL 160.59 sealing requires that an application be made to the Court.  For a person sealing more than one conviction the sealing application must be brought in the Court where the most serious conviction took place.  The application must include a copy of Certificate of Disposition for each conviction (or an explanation of why one could not be obtained) and a sworn statement of the person seeking sealing that sets forth the convictions for which sealing is sought, whether other applications have been brought for sealing, and the reasons why the person is seeking the sealing.  The application must also include any other sealing applications that have been filed.  The entire package must be served on the District Attorney’s Office in the County in which sealing is sought.

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blank breathalyzer machineDUIs can have a serious impact on recipients, causing financial distress and jeopardizing their ability to operate a motor vehicle. Even if you have been charged with a DUI, there may be a number of defenses available to you to alleviate the charge and to ensure that you are not punished unfairly. At Tilem & Associates, our seasoned New York City DUI attorneys have substantial experience analyzing DUI claims and helping individuals fight an unfair charge.

The following recent appellate opinion illustrates why consulting with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible can make a huge difference in protecting your rights. The defendant was arrested for driving while under the influence in addition to a number of other traffic-related violations. The arresting officer transported him to the nearby station at which point two other officers observed the breath-testing procedure. Both officers were experienced administrators of the test and familiar with using the device. One of the observing officers administered the test, which involves a 13-step procedure, and the other officer took a video recording of the test.

The defendant was unable to perform a proper breath sample on his first two tries, resulting in two errors. The machine had to be reset each time. On the third attempt, the machine printed out a test result showing that the defendant’s BAC was 0.25.

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As New York Firearms Lawyers we are often asked about the legality of certain specific guns in New York given the very complex laws about what firearms may be owned in New York.  A relatively new pair of firearms present some very interesting legal issues given the current state of New York Law and just may fit into a loophole under existing New York gun laws.

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Mossberg Shockwave

The Mossberg Shockwave is a gun that has a barrel length of just over 14 inches and is a smooth bore (no rifling).  Its overall length is just over 26 inches and it has a magazine capacity of 5.  The shockwave is pump action and is fitted with a grip that appears to be a pistol grip that Mossberg refers to as a bird’s head pistol grip.

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yellow bodega storeWhen facing a criminal trial, one of the most essential things to understand is whether you are able to assert any defenses to the charges against you. As seasoned New York criminal defense lawyers, we have aided many people in assessing their cases and crafting vigorous defenses. The following recent appellate court opinion showcases how taking a considered approach to articulating a defense can make a significant difference.

The defendant was charged with assault in the first degree after he was involved in a physical altercation at a corner store with a man who was 50 years old and who had a history of drug use and criminal activity. The record indicated that the victim had provoked the defendant and that the defendant had made two threats to kill the victim. Eventually, the defendant punched the victim.

Surveillance footage admitted at trial showed what occurred after the initial punch. The defendant and the victim left the premises, but each returned at individual times. The defendant again struck the victim, this time using a milk crate and hitting the victim in the face. Medical professionals later determined that the victim suffered a potentially life-threatening brain injury, broken nose, and broken cheekbone at the hospital to which he was transported.

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In a  recent NRA-ILA article about the Stossel documentary that the NRA Institute for Legislative Action suggests supports the need for national concealed carry  reciprocity, Tilem & Associates senior partner Peter H. Tilem was quoted and described as a criminal lawyer who represents tourists accused of “innocently violating New York’s gun control laws. ”  The Stossel Documentary can be seen here.

Mr. Tilem regularly represents those who travel from other States with firearms and who get arrested for violating New York’s draconian and complex gun laws.  The John Stossel documentary was based on the story of two of Mr. Tilem’s clients who were arrested at Queens, New York airports one with a gun and one with a magazine which New York law calls a high-capacity ammunition feeding device.

The NRA-ILA article goes on to describe the Stossel documentary in some depth including describing the stories of the two tourists from Georgia who were arrested and the interviews of Mr. Tilem and and Mr. Ryan, the Chief Assistant District Attorney in Queens who is in charge of the prosecution of these cases.  Both Laguardia and Kennedy airports, two of the busiest airports in the country are located within the jurisdiction of the Queens District Attorney’s Office.