In many situations, it is best to seek guidance from an experienced New York criminal lawyer as early in the process as possible. The authorities do not always have your best interests in mind, whereas a criminal defense lawyer can advise you of your rights at each step of the process. As we have discussed in prior blogs about cases such as DWI or crimes involving possession of guns marijuana or drugs seeking suppression of the evidence, may be a defendant’s best defense. A well-established constitutional rule states that evidence obtained from unlawful searches and seizures cannot be used against the accused. As a recent criminal case demonstrates, whether you can successfully assert this defense can have a huge impact on your involvement in a criminal investigation. Continue reading
One of the most nerve-wracking and stressful phases of any trial is the sentencing phase. During this portion of the trial, a sentencing judge will consider a wide variety of factors in determining whether the defendant must face incarceration or other penalties. There are many rules that apply to sentencing that are designed to protect defendants from unfair sentences, or from facing penalties that exceed the scope of the alleged misconduct. As experienced New York City gun crime lawyers, the legal professionals at Tilem & Associates have the skills and knowledge it takes to navigate a sentencing hearing successfully and appropriately.
A recent appellate opinion highlights how important it is to understand the scope of your rights and available objections during a sentencing hearing. During the summer of 2011, a police officer was accused of raping, sodomizing, and sexually assaulting a schoolteacher in a courtyard area while off duty. The defendant used his police-issued firearm to threaten the victim, and evidence indicated that the weapon was loaded at the time the assault occurred. The defendant was charged with three counts of predatory sexual assault and three counts of a criminal sexual act in the first degree, and he was convicted of all of the charges. During sentencing, the defendant received a 25-year prison term with an additional 20 years of supervision after release for each of the counts of criminal sexual conduct and for each related count of predatory sexual assault. The sentence was to run consecutively, for a total of 75 years to life, with the sentence imposed for each criminal act running concurrently to the related conviction for predatory sexual assault.
The defendant appealed the consecutive sentencing, and the reviewing court upheld it, finding that the sentencing judge had a proper legal basis for imposing the consecutive sentences. It reasoned that while the convictions for predatory sexual assault involved similar criminal acts rendering concurrent sentences appropriate, the convictions for criminal sexual acts involved three distinct events, thereby justifying the consecutive sentencing.
One 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.
Many 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.
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.
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.
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.
One 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.
One 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.
Technology 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.”
In 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.