Covid-19 Update: At Tilem & Associates our lawyers are committed to protecting your rights, serving our clients and keeping you safe.

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As we wrote in our blog on September 11, 2017, we were of the legal opinion that the Mossberg Shockwave was legal to own and possess in New York.  Our opinion in 2017 was based upon the statutory definitions of a firearm, a pistol and a shotgun in New York as well as the opinions of the New Jersey State Police, the Suffolk County Police, and the BATFE.  However, up until last week no Court case had ever confirmed the opinion that Mossberg Shockwave is legal to own and possess in New York.  The reason that no Court case confirmed that opinion is because it appears that no one had been arrested for possession of a Mossberg Shockwave.  However, last week, as has been widely reported, a New York State Supreme Court Justice dismissed four counts in an indictment pertaining to the possession of two Mossberg Shockwaves in a person’s home that were discovered by the police who were executing a search warrant for computer equipment that was allegedly involved in an unrelated Harassment investigation.

Our client was originally indicted for possession of the two Shockwaves in New York City back in December 2018.  When our law firm was retained in May 2020, we immediately pointed out that although our client was indicted for criminal possession of two firearms the Shockwaves were not in fact firearms and that the ballistics report from the NYPD ballistics section that was used in the grand jury to prove that the client possessed operable firearms very specifically did not list the Shockwaves as firearms. Rather, the NYPD’s own ballistic expert described the Shockwaves as an “other weapon”, which is not prohibited by New York Law.  Despite the fact that the ballistics report described the Shockwaves as other weapons, the District Attorney’s Office submitted the ballistics report to the grand jury and used it to seek an indictment for possession of operable firearms.  Even after the District Attorney’s Office was caught in this blatant inconsistency and after we asked them to speak to their own expert who tested the Shockwaves, the District Attorney’s Office continued to demand that we file a written motion to dismiss, which was filed back in June.

In August, The prosecutor finally filed a written answer in which they consented to the dismissal of the Shockwave charges after reading our motion.  The client, had faced a mandatory minimum of three and one half years and had that possibility hanging over his head for more than 2 years until the charges were officially dismissed by the Supreme Court Justice, last week.

On December 18, 2020,  gun owners were rocked by proposed guidance from the ATF on the evaluation of the legality of pistol braces.   This guidance was of particular concern to New York gun owners who had pistol braces attached to AR style receivers and had thought that the guns they owned were neither rifles nor handguns and thus believed that these “others”  fell outside  the scope of the Safe Act.  I was  contacted by a client this week, who by way of example had a, AR style gun that had an 18 inch barrel and a 26 inch overall length.  As far as the ATF is concerned the new guidance would have no effect on this gun since there was no concern about this being a short barreled rifle regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA).  However,  if the ATF classified a pistol brace as a stock, then there would be a concern that under New York law, the gun would be considered a rifle that was subject to the restrictions of the Safe Act.

ATF December 18th Guidance

The problem that prompted this is that while initially one company received a letter from the ATF approving a specific pistol brace.  The pistol brace market had gotten crowded with products many of which had not been approved by the ATF.

With Corona Virus (Covid-19) restrictions increasing just a week before Thanksgiving and the Governor of New York dictating how many people may attend a Thanksgiving Dinner at your house it is worth reviewing what rights you have if police unexpectedly show up at your door.  This situation could arise for a variety of reasons including a crime committed nearby having nothing to do with you and the police just wanting to canvass the area for witnesses and/or cameras or a noise complaint or some other complaint called in by your neighbors.    Often police may accompany a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker responding to a child abuse or neglect report or the police may sometimes knock and ask questions about a missing child, or adult.  In any case, it is important to understand your rights.

Firstly, Courts recognize the right of the police officers to approach your door and knock or ring the door bell.  Secondly, it is important to recognize that police officers are people, just like anyone else.  There job is difficult and important and they should be treated with courtesy and respect at all times.   It is also essential that you not give a police officer or anyone else that comes to your door any reason to fear for their safety by making any sudden movements or answering the door with a visible weapon.

There is absolutely no requirement that you answer the door if the police knock.  Just as if a police officer were to approach you on the street you have no obligation to speak to the officer and no obligation to answer the door.  The police officer may not enter your home except with your consent, with a search warrant, arrest warrant or in some very narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement.  Rarely, will police officers have a warrant and then casually knock on the door.  If they have a warrant they will either break down the door without  knocking or announce that they are the police and that they have a warrant and that they will breakdown the door if you don’t open the door immediately.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an extraordinary impact on the lives of all Americans. It seems as though almost every aspect of life has changed, seemingly overnight. As New York Criminal Defense Lawyers we are very concerned about the impact on the New York criminal justice system. In the wake of the pandemic, New York courts all but shut down, hearing only emergency matters. This took a serious toll on the effectiveness of the state’s criminal justice system. Indeed, jury trials have been delayed for months, and courts are getting overwhelmed as new cases continue to come in. Even since courts have started to reopen, concerns around the effective administration of justice remain—chief among these being the ability to get a fair jury trial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While all New Yorkers are hopeful that the worst of the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror, New York is still struggling to return to a level of normalcy even as safety measures remain in place.  These safety measures can substantially interfere with a defendant’s due process rights and their ability to obtain a fair trial.

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury and “to be confronted with the witnesses against him,” and “to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor.” However, each of these rights may be seriously hampered by the restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bill which would end the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and driver  responsibility assessments has past both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate and is currently awaiting the signature of Governor Cuomo. The new law, if signed could impact millions of New Yorker’s who are currently suspended for unpaid fines and fees such as Driver Responsibility Assessments.  In the 26 months from January 2016 until April 2018 New York issued nearly 1.7 million suspensions for traffic debt.  The suspensions create a cycle that is hard to get out of since, often, those with suspended licenses, cannot work to pay the debts.

Driving with a suspended license that is suspended based upon unpaid fines or driver responsibility assessments can constitute anywhere from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on a number of factors and can have serious consequences including mandatory probation and/or jail.

Similar laws that prohibit suspensions based upon traffic debt have already been passed in at least 9 states including large states such as Texas and California as part of a national trend to stop punishing poverty by eliminating cash bail and terminating suspensions based upon unpaid debts.

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.

There is no doubt that the Corona Virus Pandemic has disrupted every aspect of New York life.  This is especially true for New York lawyers practicing in New York Criminal Courts.  With New York Courts closed except for essential matters, New York criminal lawyers and their clients find themselves having to navigate a whole new landscape that is having a major impact on criminal clients.

Consider just a few facts:  New York Criminal Cases are often being adjourned into June or even July from March or April.  What about the constitutional and statutory rights to a speedy trial?  Under New York CPL 30.30 (1)(b), A prosecutor must be ready for trial within 90 days of the commencement of a criminal case where a client is charged with an “A” misdemeanor.  Which means that many clients should be getting their cases dismissed when the Courts reopen.  However, CPL 30.30 (4)(g), excludes from the 90 calculation periods of delay caused by “exceptional circumstances”.  While I know of no Court that has ruled on this issue yet, I do not think it will be too long before Courts rule that all of the time occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic will be excluded under that section.  This may raise many issues for clients.

What about the DWI client that was arraigned on a DWI in February and had their license suspended pending prosecution under New York law.  We got her a hardship license so that she could drive to and from work but the client lost her job and so is not permitted to drive and her case has already been adjourned until June at the earliest.  Four months after the arraignment.

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.

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 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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