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Articles Posted in GUN CRIMES

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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 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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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.

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night club signOne of the most common issues to arise in a criminal case is whether a certain piece of evidence can be used during a trial. Although there are protocols regarding how the prosecution must maintain evidence and preserve the chain of custody, sometimes evidence is mishandled or lost. This creates a whole host of legal issues regarding the impact of the evidence and whether it can be used or referenced during a trial. As a recent appellate case demonstrates, consulting with a knowledgeable New York criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and how evidence may affect your case.

The defendant in the case at hand was charged with intentional murder in the second degree, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, and other things. The shooting allegedly took place outside a nightclub in Queens. Shortly after the incident, a police officer obtained a copy of video surveillance footage of the scene that the nightclub possessed, but the footage was subsequently lost before the trial took place. The defendant was identified as a suspect, and the bouncer of the club identified him in a lineup, but he later testified at trial that he could not be certain whether the defendant was the shooter because he observed the shooter from across the street.

Before trial, the defendant requested disclosure of the nightclub’s surveillance footage, and the prosecution requested a copy as well. The police department responded that the officer misplaced the footage, however, and that it could not be found. The nightclub has ceased operating in the interim and did not have any additional copies of the footage. A number of witnesses and the officer testified about the footage and what they saw, with the bouncer indicating that the footage captured the victim.

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empty jury boxOne of the most common questions that we receive as New York criminal defense attorneys is, “How are jury members selected?” The law surrounding jury selection is very complex, as the following recent appellate opinion demonstrates. The central issue in this appeal was whether the lower court committed a reversible error when it did not allow defense counsel to question prospective jurors regarding their opinions about involuntary confessions. The defendant was charged with a number of crimes, including murder. The defendant provided verbal and written statements to the police indicating that he was involved with the shooting. The victim approached the defendant about a missing cell phone, and sometime after that, the defendant came back and threatened him with an ice pick, at which time the defendant pulled out a gun and shot at the victim while he fled. There were two eyewitnesses to the crime in addition to the defendant’s statements.

Before jury selection, the defendant asked if he could question jurors regarding their ability to understand legal rules applicable to involuntary statements. In response, the prosecution indicated that they had not decided whether they were going to offer the defendant’s statements during trial as evidence. As a result, the court denied the defendant’s request to question jurors on this subject. The court reasoned that if the prosecution did not use the statements, and the jury was questioned about their views on involuntary confessions, the jury might then engage in speculation regarding whether such statements existed. The court also concluded that the jurors would be able to understand that involuntary confessions were inadmissible for any purpose.

During trial, the prosecution admitted the defendant’s statements, and the jury ultimately concluded that the defendant was not guilty of murder in the second degree. Instead, they convicted him of manslaughter in the first degree. The defendant appealed, stating that the trial court erred when it failed to allow the defendant to question jurors about involuntary confessions. The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling, and the defendant appealed to the New York Court of Appeal.

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breaking into homeTechnology has made our lives easier in many ways, but it has also raised novel issues regarding how technology can be used during a trial. As seasoned New York criminal defense attorneys, we are prepared to handle these new and developing issues and to ensure that they do not affect your right to a fair trial. As the following case demonstrates, having a prepared and informed lawyer at your side can make all of the difference.

In a recent appellate opinion, the Court of Appeal considered whether a prosecutor’s use of a PowerPoint presentation that contained annotated images of evidence and trial exhibits was permissible or whether it constituted a reversible error for the court to allow the prosecutor to use the presentation. The defendant was implicated in an attack in which several men broke into the victim’s apartment. The victim knew the defendant as fellow residents of the same neighborhood. According to the victim, the defendant shot him, cut him, and dumped bleach onto his head.

During trial, the prosecution submitted video evidence of the street and sidewalk where the victim lived that were obtained from the apartment building’s surveillance system. The victim testified that he was on the phone with his brother when the men broke in, and the brother testified at trial. During his testimony, the prosecution showed still photographs from the surveillance video. The brother offered additional testimony indicating that he was in the vicinity shortly before the attack and that he believed he saw the defendant as part of the group of men.

Before the jury began deliberations, the court instructed them that they were the sole finders of fact and that things the lawyers stated during final summations were not evidence. The prosecution used a PowerPoint display during summation that contained annotated images of trial exhibits, featuring circles, text, and arrows. The photographs had also been superimposed with phrases like “victim’s brother sees defendant.”

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gunIn a recent appellate opinion, a New York court was asked to decide whether the prosecution had provided an adequate foundation during trial to authenticate a photograph that purportedly depicted the defendant brandishing a gun and money, which was obtained from a social media profile on the internet that allegedly belonged to the defendant. The background of the case is as follows. The defendant was convicted of two counts of robbery during a jury trial. A witness testified at trial regarding events surrounding the robbery. The witness stated that the incident occurred while he was making milk deliveries and that at one point he observed an individual holding a gun roughly one foot away from the victim’s chest. The victim and the individual brandishing the gun exchanged words, the victim threw a handful of cash from his pocket onto the ground, and the individual and his accomplice fled after collecting the money.

After the witness concluded this testimony, the prosecution informed the court that it intended to introduce a photograph located “on the internet” that purportedly showed the defendant holding a handgun. The prosecution indicated that the victim could identify the firearm in the internet photo because the same weapon was used during the robbery and that a detective could identify the defendant as the person who committed the robbery.

The defendant objected, stating that the prosecution failed to create an adequate foundation to authenticate the photograph as an accurate and fair depiction of the defendant holding the gun, or to show that the photograph had not been modified. The prosecution rebutted this assertion by stating that the foundation would be provided through proof that the picture was obtained from a public web page that included an internet profile name with the defendant’s surname and additional photographs depicting the defendant. The lower court ruled that the prosecution had provided an appropriate foundation and that the photograph could be admitted. The matter proceeded, and the defendant was ultimately found guilty on two counts of robbery.

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gun with bulletsIn a recent opinion from New York’s highest state court, the defendant was convicted of possessing a weapon in the second and third degrees as well as the unlawful possession of marijuana. Before the jury trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence of a firearm located in his vehicle. During the hearing on the motion, a detective testified about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the defendant and the subsequent search that revealed the firearm. The detective stated that he and his partner received a warrant for the defendant’s arrest based on a number of parole violations. The detectives made several attempts to locate the defendant’s whereabouts, including an occasion on which they made contact with the defendant’s ex-girlfriend.

Later that day, the ex-girlfriend called the detectives to inform them that the defendant could be found in a specific location in his vehicle. The detectives arrived at the stated location, however, and the defendant was not there. Shortly thereafter, the ex-girlfriend called again in a panic, stating that the defendant had her son in his vehicle and that the defendant told her he had a firearm in the vehicle. The detectives returned to the previous location and confirmed the defendant’s parked and vacant vehicle, using the DMV records database and information that the ex-girlfriend provided. The detectives entered the defendant’s nearby apartment, where he was located with the ex-girlfriend’s son. After the defendant was arrested, the detectives searched the vehicle and located the firearm that the ex-girlfriend mentioned in a bag on the backseat of the vehicle.

The lower court denied the motion to suppress, stating that the parolee status and the tip from the ex-girlfriend regarding the gun provided sufficient support for the search. The appellate division affirmed, and the defendant again appealed to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. The defendant argued that the search was unlawful pursuant to a prior case because the search was conducted purely as a result of the defendant’s status as a parolee and that such a search can only be performed by the defendant’s parole agent, rather than detectives.

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New York Firearms Attorney Peter Tilem has been named to the Critical Response Team of the United States Concealed Carry Association. The USCCA Critical Response Team is an exclusive community of qualified attorneys that are committed to defending the rights of responsible gun owners in New York State and throughout the Country. USCCA is an organization that promotes firearms education, training and insurance to law abiding gun owners. The insurance covers members who are involved in a self-defense shooting and provides benefits for both legal defense and coverage in the event of a civil suit. The USCCA provides a list of pre-screened attorneys to its members. Mr. Tilem, who has been on the list of pre-screened attorneys for a number of years was recently named to the critical response team to provide 24 hour assistance to members in the event of a self defense incident. critical-response-team-logo

Mr. Tilem joins the USCCA Critical Response Team with extensive experience handling assault cases where the defense of “justification” or “self-defense” has been used. As a former senior prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Tilem was often called upon to investigate shootings and stabbings involving self-defense claims and has continued during his 25 year career defending those accused of assault but many of whom were acting in self-defense.

Mr. Tilem is well aware of New York’s expansive defense of justification which goes way beyond using physical force including deadly physical force to defend ones self and others against violent attack. Article 35 of the New York State Penal law includes a variety of situations where an individual may use physical force and even deadly physical force to: defend premises and to terminate and prevent or prevent a burglary, (See Penal Law sec. 35.20); use physical force to prevent a larceny and/or criminal mischief, (See Penal Law 35.25); use physical force including deadly physical force by a civilian to effect the arrest of a person who has committed certain violent offenses, (Penal Law 35.30).

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As New York Gun Lawyers we are aware that New York has a ban on possessing firearms magazines that are capable of containing more than 10 rounds. However, not everyone is as aware of the gun laws as they should be and this week two different cases in two opposite ends of New York State demonstrated how serious these cases are and how the right representation can make all of this difference in the world.

As was widely reported in the paper last week (see another article here) a former Army veteran who spent more than 9 years in the army was convicted of three felonies in Niagra County in far western New York, after he was found to be in possession of three magazines for a Glock 9mm handgun. Each of the magazines was capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The Army veteran did not possess any firearm, only the magazines. He is awaiting sentencing in two months according to the reports and faces up to 21 years in prison.

Meanwhile, in far Northern New York, on the same day that the veteran was convicted a man was being arrested and charged for bringing two handguns that were illegal in New York along with two high capacity ammunition feeding devices across the Canadian border in New York. This man possessed both the firearms and the high capacity magazines, also for a Glock pistol (albeit for a different model). Within a period of a week, the individual in Northern New York had the gun charges dismissed and had the high capacity magazine charges reduced to two counts of disorderly conduct. He paid fines totaling $500 a state mandated surcharge of $125 and the record of the arrest and conviction were sealed.