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Articles Posted in GUN CRIMES

Tilem & Associates, New York’s premier law firm for gun owners is pleased to announce the creation of a new pre-paid legal program, NY Tac Defense,  for New York gun owners which includes legal representation for self-defense Pre-Paid Legal services for gun ownerscases and red flag (ERPO) cases for enrolled clients.  Clients enrolled in the NY TAC DEFENSE can pay either a low monthly rate of $38.50 per month or can enroll in a discounted annual plan which is $385 for the year and is the equivalent of getting two months free.

Peter H. Tilem, the owner of Tilem & Associates, PC, spent 10 years in the New York County District Attorney’s Office where he was assigned to work on a variety of cases which included gun cases and homicides.  Since entering private practice Mr. Tilem has represented a large number of gun owners and has been involved in many justification or self-defense cases.

As of May 2018, several insurance programs, including NRA Carry Guard and a USCCA (United States Concealed Carry Association) program were being offered in New York but were subsequently alleged to be violating New York insurance regulations.  Both programs and others have since pulled out of the New York market.  The NY TAC Defense Program is a pre-paid legal product that allows clients to retain the firms services and pre-pay the legal services so that if they need to hire a lawyer for a self-defense shooting the client will not need to come up with a large lump sum retainer of $50,000 or more to retain a law firm.  It is not insurance and therefore does not indemnify against any losses.  It is simply an opportunity to retain a lawyer in advance.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun case, reversing a lower court that found the defendant’s motion to suppress lacked merit. In holding that the defendant’s motion should have been granted, the appellate court explained that the defendant’s conduct failed to provide the officer with probable cause to search the vehicle without a warrant.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer saw the defendant make a left turn without using a signal. As the officer initiated the traffic stop, the defendant pulled into a driveway. The defendant initially got out of the vehicle, but the officer told him to get back inside. The defendant was unable to open the window, explaining to the officer that it was broken. Eventually, the defendant moved to the passenger side, opened the door, and fled.

Once the officer caught the defendant, the defendant explained he ran because he had a warrant for his arrest. The officer went back to the defendant’s car, noticing the smell of marijuana. The officer looked through the car, finding small baggies and a substance that he believed was crack cocaine. The officer then obtained a warrant to fully search the car. Upon searching the vehicle, the officer found a semi-automatic handgun.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun possession case discussing whether the arresting officer had a “founded suspicion” that there was criminal activity afoot. Ultimately, the court held that the defendant’s motion to suppress the firearm that was found on him should have been granted, because the arresting officer approached, stopped, questioned and subsequently searched the defendant without sufficient reason.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was out walking his dog in an area known to be an “open air drug market” when he was approached by a police officer. That night, the temperature was about 40 degrees, and the defendant was wearing a mask that covered part of his face. The officer, who had only been on the force a few months and was working underneath a more experienced officer, pulled his vehicle in front of the defendant’s line of travel, got out of the car, and approached the defendant to ask him why he was wearing a mask. The defendant responded that he was walking his dog.

At this time, the more experienced training officer asked the defendant what was in a bag that he was carrying. The defendant responded that it was “weed.” The arresting officer then frisked the defendant and found a gun. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that the arresting officer lacked reason to stop and question him, as well as to conduct the pat-frisk that led to the discovery of the gun.

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As we reported in February, the Supreme Court heard argument on  a drug case that will likely have significant consequences for many facing New York gun charges.  Now, the United States Supreme Court issued a written opinion  in the case.  Specifically, the case required the Court to interpret the provision of the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA) imposing mandatory sentences for those who are convicted of a gun offense after having previously been convicted of at least three drug offenses.

The ACCA seeks to impose escalating punishments for the possession of a firearm, based on a defendant’s prior record. For example, if a defendant is convicted of a gun offense, and has three prior “serious drug offenses,” the defendant is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 15 years. Of course, not every state’s laws are written the same way, and this requires federal courts to determine whether a drug conviction should be considered a “serious drug offense” under the ACCA.

The Facts of the Case

According to the Court’s opinion, the defendant pleaded guilty to a firearm offense and, based on the defendant’s six prior cocaine-related convictions, he received a sentence of 15 years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant challenged the lower court’s finding that the six offenses qualified as “serious drug offenses” under the ACCA.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun case discussing the automobile exception to the search warrant requirement. Generally, law enforcement must obtain a search warrant that is supported by probable cause before they can conduct a search. However, over the years, courts have crafted a variety of exceptions to the warrant requirement. One of the most often cited exceptions is the automobile exception.

The automobile exception came about based on the understanding that vehicles are mobile. Thus, if police officers were required to obtain a warrant to search a car, there would be a risk that the officers would not be able to locate the car again, or that any evidence inside the car could be hidden or destroyed. Thus, if an officer has probable cause to believe that there may be evidence or contraband inside a vehicle, the officer can search the vehicle without a warrant.

According to the court’s opinion, police officers witnessed the defendant give a carton of cigarettes to another man in exchange for money. The officers approached the defendant, who was standing near the open door of a van. As the officers got closer to the van, they could see that it was full of duffle bags and that one of the bags contained additional cartons of cigarettes. One of the officers then opened one of the packs in the carton that the defendant had just exchanged, noticing that there was no New York tax stamp. Officers arrested the defendant. Before driving the defendant’s car back to the station, one of the officers conducted a “quick check” of the vehicle, finding a firearm under the passenger seat.

As Second Amendment lawyers in New York you would imagine that we are familiar with idiotic “gun control” laws.  Which is why an article in this month’s Ballistic Magazine about the twelve most idiotic gun laws caught my eye.  To be sure New York, along with neighboring New Jersey are well represented on this list.  So lets go through them

  1. New Jersey’s ban on hollow points.  Yes, believe it or not New Jersey wants everyone running around with full metal jackets.  Hollow points are illegal every place except at the place of purchase, your home, the range or hunting.  Although the law is so poorly written that expanding bullets like Federal Guard Dog and bullets with the tip filled with polymer like Critical Defense/Duty are legal.
  2. Back to New Jersey, New Jersey also treats BB guns and Antique Black Powder weapons as modern firearms.  You need the New Jersey State Firearms ID Card just to buy them.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York gun possession case involving the denial of the defendant’s pre-trial motion to suppress. Motions to suppress are often the most critical stage of a trial in cases involving guns or drugs, especially where the contraband item is found on the defendant. In this case, the court ultimately upheld the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress, finding that the defendant gave the officers consent to search his car.

Consent is one of the few major exceptions to the warrant requirement. Generally, law enforcement needs a warrant to conduct a search of a person or their belongings. To obtain a warrant, an officer must establish that there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed, and the search would turn up evidence of that crime. However, if a suspect consents to a search, that eliminates the need for an officer to obtain a warrant. To be valid, consent must be voluntary, and cannot be forced or coerced. Courts look to the surrounding circumstances to determine the validity of a suspect’s consent.

According to the court’s opinion, police received a 911 call stating that a man was banging on a hotel door with a gun. Police arrived and began to speak with the defendant outside the hotel room. He was not handcuffed at the time.

As a New York Second Amendment lawyer I get asked all kinds of questions everyday about where and when people may carry their lawfully possessed firearm.  Most of these questions pertain to New York and Federal Law.  However, this week I was contacted with an interesting question.  Can a New Yorker who has a license to possess a firearm take his lawfully owned handgun on vacation with him in Puerto Rico.  After doing the research I learned that surprisingly, the answer was, yes.

Puerto Rico had some of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States prior to 2015.  In June 2015, a local Court ruled that Puerto Rico’s restrictive gun laws were unconstitutional.  For a brief time, Puerto Rico had no enforceable gun laws.  That decision was soon overturned and local and Federal Judges later found that the Puerto Rico’s gun laws were constitutional.  However, in recent years Puerto Rico had become increasingly dangerous especially after the hurricane wreaked havoc on the territory’s infrastructure.

In 2016, Puerto Rico had one of the lowest rates of gun ownership in the U.S. with only 225,000 firearms owned.  A rate of just 6.6 guns per 100 people.  At the same time, Puerto Rico had a murder rate of almost 4 times the national average and almost twice the murder rate in Louisiana which had the highest murder rate of any State.

In October 2019 we published an article about inventory searches and how the Court are reviewing such searches more carefully.  However, earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York credit card fraud case involving a search of the defendant’s belongings that occurred after he was arrested for an unrelated crime. The case is useful in that it illustrates the concept of an inventory search, which frequently is cited as a valid basis for searches that may otherwise be unsupported by probable cause.

The U.S. and New York constitutions provide citizens with certain rights. Among those rights are those contained in the Fourth Amendment, which states that citizens are to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Over time, courts have fleshed out the protections of the Fourth Amendment to mean that a police officer cannot conduct a search without a warrant.

Of course, over the years, courts have allowed several exceptions to the warrant requirement. Depending on the situation, there may be a lower burden that police officers must meet or, in some cases, police officers may not need any additional facts to support a search. For example, police do not need a warrant (or even probable cause) to seize an item that is in plain view. The concept behind the plain-view doctrine is that an officer is not conducting a “search” under the terms of the Fourth Amendment if he recovers something that readily observable and in plain view. Another example is the warrant exception involving vehicles. Courts have held that vehicles pose a unique concern for officers in that they are mobile, limiting officers’ ability to go retrieve a warrant. Thus, there is a relaxed standard for searching an automobile.

In October 2019 we published a Blog which posed the question, “Is the NFA dead?  In the article we discussed several types of short barreled weapons which had been reviewed by the ATF and other law enforcement agencies and had been found to not be covered by the National Firearms Act.  In September 2017 we reported in an article about the Mossberg Shockwave and related firearms that such weapons were legal to purchase and own in New York despite the fourteen inch barrel.  However, in our article in October 2019, we discussed the Franklin Armory Reformation line of firearms which at that time were considered to be legal to own and purchase based upon an ATF determination that the firearms were not considered short barreled rifles or shotguns under the National Firearms Act.  However, today, the ATF issued new guidance.

In an “Open Letter” dated December 19, 2019, the Acting Assistant Director of the BATFE for Enforcement, Programs and Services, the ATF determined that Reformation firearms with barrels less than 18 inches are “Short-Barreled Shotguns” under the Gun Control Act, not the National Firearms Act.  It therefore appears that it is difficult to transport or transfer any Reformation firearm with a barrel length less than 18 inches.  According to the BATFE letter, this is the first firearm ever produced that the BATFE has classified as a Gun Control Act Short Barreled Shotgun.  This is notwithstanding the fact that the Reformation does not accept or shoot shotgun shells.

To refresh everyone’s recollection, the Franklin Armory Reformation line includes firearms with a full stock and short barrels but unlike traditional rifles have the lands and grooves cut straight, front to back.  A traditional rifle has the lands and grooves cut in a twisted pattern to impart a spin on the bullet as it travels through and leaves the barrel.  Since the Reformation does not have “rifling” it could not be considered a rifle and therefore was not subject to the provisions of the NFA that pertain to rifles.  In addition, because the barrel of the Reformation is not smooth and since it does not accept shotgun shells, it similarly cannot be considered a shotgun and therefore the provisions of the NFA pertaining to short-barreled shotguns also do not apply.

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