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Articles Posted in THEFT CRIMES

In a recent opinion from a New York court, the defendant’s appeal of his forgery conviction was denied. Originally, the defendant was convicted of criminal possession of a forged instrument due to his attempts at using a fake gift card to purchase items at a department store. He was also convicted of petit larceny, and he appealed both convictions. The higher court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately affirmed the defendant’s original guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was a New York resident who went shopping at a Century 21 department store. While there, the defendant used a forged gift card to try and make purchases. Apparently, the gift card had been manufactured so that a third party would be billed for the transaction, allowing the defendant to buy items without having to pay any money. When the defendant was caught using the forged card, he told the department store’s security guards that he purchased the card from a stranger for $20, even though he had been attempting to purchase $70 worth of clothing at the time.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that incriminating evidence of his attempted theft should have been suppressed at trial. The defendant focused on the fact that the evidence used at trial came from the store’s security guards, who were subject to the same rules as state actors, such as police officers or government employees.  The Constitution protects an individual from infringement of certain rights from the Government not from private individuals or companies.  Therefore, one may only have evidence suppressed if it is illegally seized by government actors and not private actors.  Because the store’s guards were considered state actors for the purposes of this case, said the defendant, they were supposed to carefully ensure that they were not intruding on the defendant’s constitutional rights. These rights include the right to privacy as well as the right to not be searched without probable cause.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York burglary case discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of an identification made by a law enforcement officer. Ultimately, the court concluded that the procedures used by police to conduct the identification were “unduly suggestive,” agreeing with the defendant. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s ruling, granted the defendant’s motion to suppress, and ordered a new trial. In the subsequent trial, the prosecution will not be permitted to use evidence of the complaining witness’s identification unless there is an independent source for the identification.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant was arrested for residential burglary. During the investigation, without prompting from the police, the complaining witness found a Facebook picture of the defendant and told police that’s who had burglarized their home. Based on this information, police officers located an old arrest photo of the defendant and asked the complaining witness if it was the same person. The complaining witness made a positive identification.

The defendant filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the identification testimony, claiming it was unduly suggestive. The trial court disagreed, denying the defendant’s motion. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion on the basis that any suggestiveness in the identification procedure was not the result of any improper conduct of law enforcement. The defendant was convicted by a jury. He then appealed.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York robbery case involving a defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to law enforcement. Specifically, the case required the court determine if the defendant’s statements were admissible or whether they were the product of a violation of his constitutional rights. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant’s statements were admissible.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a police officer witnessed the defendant roll through a stop sign. The police officer pulled over the defendant and requested his driver’s license, registration, and insurance card. As the defendant retrieved the requested items, the officer noticed a can of pepper spray in the glove box. The officer also recognized the vehicle as matching the description of one used in a recent robbery in which the person committing the robbery used pepper spray on the alleged victims.

The officer arrested the defendant and read him his Miranda warnings. Later, the defendant provided a statement to police. While the exact statement was not outlined in the court’s opinion, it’s fair to say that it was against his interest.

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The New York and federal constitutions provide fundamental rights to all citizens. Among the most important are those contained in the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment generally protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Historically, this meant that police officers needed to obtain a warrant before searching a person, their belongings, or a place in which the person had a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a home.  The Exclusionary Rule prohibits the introduction into evidence and the use in Court of evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

However, over the years, courts realized that the warrant requirement was overly burdensome on law enforcement and created exceptions to the warrant requirement. For example, police officers who observed a crime occurring can arrest the person suspected of committing the crime and then conduct a limited search incident to that arrest. Of course, there are limits on the scope of a search incident to an arrest; one of which involves police officers searching a closed container after a lawful arrest.

A recent case illustrates how the plain view doctrine can play out. According to the court’s opinion, a defendant was arrested for criminal possession of a forged instrument. After arresting the defendant, the arresting officer pulled out a manila envelope from the defendant’s pocket. The envelope was closed, and the contents were not visible. However, the police officer opened the envelop enough to peek inside. Inside the envelope, the officer found additional incriminating evidence.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York kidnapping case. In its opinion, the court addressed the defendant’s motion to suppress physical evidence obtained when the officers executed a warrantless search of his home. The defendant also sought suppression of post-arrest statements he made to detectives.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers received a call indicating that the caller’s friend may have been kidnapped. Apparently, the defendant and several others allegedly kidnapped the complaining witness and called several of their friends, asking for a ransom. One friend recognized the caller’s voice as the defendant’s.

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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