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Articles Posted in THEFT CRIMES

Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion in a New York criminal defendant’s appeal, arguing that a trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence found in his vehicle. According to the court’s opinion, police were involved in a high-speed chase with the defendant that ended when the defendant crashed his car into a marsh. Police arrested the defendant, and a private company towed his vehicle. Per the towing service’s protocol, the defendant’s vehicle was inventoried. During the inventory, employees discovered $10,000 worth of automotive tools in a nylon bag. The employees believed that the tools were stolen and contacted the police. An investigator was aware that a local automotive store was burglarized recently and noticed one of the drills inside the bag. The investigator walked around the vehicle and noticed other similar items in plain view. The police then obtained a warrant to search the vehicle, where they found numerous reported stolen items.

Before trial, the defendant requested to proceed pro se and suppress the evidence. The court granted the request and proceeded with a Mapp hearing. A Mapp hearing is relevant when a defendant contests the admissibility of physical evidence that law enforcement obtained during an illegal search. If a judge finds that the evidence was acquired illegally, the prosecutor cannot use the physical evidence obtained during the search against the defendant.

In this case, during the Mapp hearing, the officer testified that he ran the defendant’s license plate and discovered that his license and registration was expired. However, when he turned on his emergency lights, the defendant did not respond and then fled. After police detained the defendant, they noticed the items in the vehicle but did not seize any of the tools. The court concluded that the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. They reasoned that the arresting officer was permitted to run a license and registration check through the police database, even without suspicion of criminal activity. Moreover, the defendant’s failure to stop and then flee provided officers with probable cause to detain him.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York robbery case discussing whether the defendant’s statements were admissible at trial. The defendant claimed that statements were not voluntary, as they were only made in response to factually incorrect comments made by the interviewing officers. Specifically, the defendant argued that by telling him that admitting to the crime would be better for him in the long-run, the police officers coerced him into making an admission. Not surprisingly, given the long history of police officers being allowed to lie to suspects, the court disagreed, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

The facts of the underlying offense are not laid out in the court’s opinion, as they are not relevant to the question before the court. However, the court explained that the defendant had been arrested on suspicion of robbery. After his arrest, the defendant waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with law enforcement. During the interrogation, officers told the defendant that it would be to his advantage to admit to them what happened. The defendant admitted to his role in the robbery.

In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant raised several arguments. However, he did not argue the issue he later raised on appeal.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York burglary case discussing whether the lower court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that police recovered from inside of his backpack. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officers had a legal basis to pursue the defendant and that exigent circumstances justified the officers’ search of the pack.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, police officers received a call for a burglary in progress. Moments after police arrived on the scene, another call came in describing the perpetrator as a black male wearing a black hat, carrying a backpack and riding a bicycle. Two minutes later, police officers saw the defendant, who matched this description.

The defendant fled as police tried to stop him. Ultimately, the defendant fell off the bike and was detained. Moments later, the alleged victim came to the scene, shouting, “that’s him!” Police arrested the defendant and then noticed a backpack nearby. The officers opened the backpack, finding several of the alleged victim’s belongings inside.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York burglary case involving the defendant’s motion to suppress the physical evidence that police recovered when they searched his pockets. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer lacked probable cause to conduct the search, and the defendant’s motion was granted.

According to the court’s opinion, police received a call reporting a burglary in which a resident reported $5,500 was stolen. About an hour after the call, an officer came upon the defendant, who matched the description given to police, which was a person “in dark clothing.” The officer approached and asked the defendant for his identification. Initially, the defendant turned and walked away, but later approached the officer. According to the officer, the defendant put his hands into his pockets. The officer asked the defendant to remove his hands and place them on his head, and the defendant complied. The officer then noticed bulges in each of the defendant’s pockets. The officer patted the defendant down, and could not discern what the bulges were, although he could tell they were not weapons. The officer then reached into the defendant’s pockets and removed a large amount of cash. The defendant was arrested and charged with burglary.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the cash, arguing that the police officer did not have probable cause to reach into his pockets. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion, and the prosecution appealed.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York burglary case involving the lower court’s decision that the defendant was not able to appeal his conviction. The case involved two separate burglaries, and the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that related to one of those burglaries.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer, acting on a tip, stopped the defendant based on suspicion that he was involved in a prior burglary. The officer asked the defendant to remove his hands from his pockets, noticing that the defendant had something in his hands. The officer asked the defendant to open his hands, and discovered that it was a small bag of jewelry. The defendant claimed he bought the jewelry from a nearby yard sale. However, when the officer took the defendant to the yard sale to confirm his story, the homeowner denied ever owning the jewelry. The defendant was eventually arrested for two prior burglaries.

The defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop him. Because of this, the defendant claimed that the jewelry should have been suppressed. The court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant pleaded guilty to one count of burglary. Importantly, the count of burglary that the defendant pleaded guilty to was not the one related to the jewelry.

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In any New York criminal case, there may be a number of potential defenses. One of the most common defenses in crimes involving people who do not know each other is misidentification. When a defendant argues misidentification, they are claiming that another person was the one who committed the offense, and that they were incorrectly identified as the perpetrator.

Recent studies over the past decade have called into question the reliability of identifications. This is especially the case in cross-racial identifications, where the person making the identification is of a different race than the person they are identifying. Understanding the risks of misidentification, courts require that police officers follow certain rules when conducting an identification procedure.

For example, in a recent state appellate opinion, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction for robbery on the basis that the victim’s identification of the defendant was unduly suggestive. Police arrested the defendant after receiving a report from a person who claimed that a man in dreadlocks robbed him. After the arrest, the defendant was placed in a line-up with other individuals, and the victim was asked to identify whether the person who robbed him was in the line-up and, if so, to identify him. All men in the line-up wore hats; however, the defendant was the only person in the line-up with dreadlocks and his dreadlocks were visible.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York marijuana possession case involving the question of whether the defendant could legally be convicted of tampering with evidence after he threw a bag of marijuana to the ground while being chased by police. The court determined that the defendant’s conduct did not meet the necessary elements of tampering with physical evidence, noting that the proper charge was the lesser offense of attempted tampering with physical evidence.

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were conducting surveillance out in front of a store after there were recent reports of people drinking and selling drugs outside the store. The undercover police officers observed the defendant leave the store while drinking from a bottle that was wrapped in a brown paper bag. Thinking that the defendant was violating the state’s open-container laws, the officers gave the defendant’s description to backup officers, instructing them to stop the defendant.

As the backup officers tried to stop the defendant, the defendant dropped the brown paper bag to the ground and ran. The bottle broke as it hit the ground. A backup officer started to chase the defendant, and noticed that the defendant threw a baggie that was later determined to contain marijuana. After his arrest, the defendant punched the officer in the face. The defendant was charged with various crimes, including assault, possession of marijuana, and tampering with physical evidence. The prosecution argued that by throwing the baggie of marijuana, the defendant tampered with evidence.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York burglary case requiring the court to determine whether a police officer’s actions violated the defendant’s rights prior to his arrest. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer lacked justification to stop the defendant, search his bag, and then transport him to the scene of the crime so that a show-up identification could be made. Thus, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion.

According to the court’s opinion, police officers received a report of a burglary. Several officers went directly to the scene and others canvassed the area looking for a suspect. The description given by the caller stated only that the suspect was a male.

An officer saw the defendant walking with a cell phone and a bag a few blocks away from the scene. The officer asked the defendant what he was doing, to which the defendant responded he was looking through garbage cans. The officer searched the defendant’s bag and then told him that he was going to be transported to the scene. At the scene, the defendant was identified as the burglar.

Under the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA), federal law provides for enhanced penalties for people convicted of a crime involving a firearm if they have previously been convicted of several “violent felonies.” New York has similar laws that enhance penalties for persistent violent felony offenders and discretionary persistent felony offenders.  Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case in which the court will be required to explain what constitutes a “violent felony” under the ACCA. The case is important to New York criminal defendants because it will define what counts as a predicate offense under the ACCA, which could have significant repercussions for a person’s sentence.

The case involves a defendant who was convicted for possession of ammunition. At sentencing, the prosecution presented evidence that the defendant had previously been convicted of five offenses:  a 1974 robbery, a 1982 robbery, a 1983 attempted burglary, a 1986 burglary, and a 1994 robbery. The prosecution argued that each of the previous offenses qualified as violent felonies under the ACCA, and it sought a mandatory sentence on the current case of at least 15 years. If the defendant did not have three qualifying offenses, the maximum sentence that he could receive would have been 10 years. However, the trial court agreed with the prosecution, sentencing the defendant to 15 years.

After the U.S. Supreme Court held that part of the ACCA was unconstitutional, the defendant filed a petition, claiming that several of his previous convictions no longer qualified as “violent felonies.” The prosecution agreed that the 1983 conviction for attempted burglary was no longer a qualifying offense, but it argued that the remaining convictions still qualified under the ACCA. The court disagreed, finding that only two of the defendant’s robbery convictions qualified, and it sentenced him to 88 months.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York robbery case involving the defendant’s motion to suppress an identification made by the complaining witness, as well as statements made by the defendant after his arrest. Ultimately, the court held that because the prosecution failed to establish that the defendant’s arrest on an unrelated matter was supported by probable cause, the subsequent identification and statements were “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and must be suppressed.

According to the court’s opinion, a man was robbed in Queens. A day or two after the robbery, the assigned police officer provided the complaining witness with a photo lineup, where he identified the defendant. The officer filled out an identification card, which essentially put other police officers on notice that the defendant should be arrested. Several days later, the assigned officer was informed that the defendant was in custody based on an unrelated matter. The officer brought the complaining witness to the station, where he identified the defendant. The defendant then gave a statement to the police.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the witness’s identification, as well as the statement he made following his arrest. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the “fellow officer rule” justified that defendant’s arrest. Under the fellow officer rule, if an arresting officer lacks probable cause to arrest, the arrest may still be valid if the arresting officer makes the arrest based on communication with a fellow officer who had information justifying the arrest. The defendant was convicted of robbery and appealed the denial of his motion to suppress.

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