Court Holds that New York Recidivist Statutes Look to Original Sentencing Date, Rather than a Subsequent Resentencing Date

When courts determine a defendant’s sentence, one of the factors they consider is the defendant’s prior record. Typically, the more convictions a defendant has on their record, the harsher the penalty they can expect to receive.

New York lawmakers have prescribed an escalating punishment scheme for “second felony offenders.” Under New York Consolidated Laws § 70.06, a second felony offender is someone who has recently been convicted of a qualifying offense and has a qualifying predicate offense. The punishments for second felony offenders are mandatory, meaning a judge cannot exercise her discretion to impose a more lenient sentence, and are significantly increased over those for first-time felony offenders. A proficient New York criminal appeals attorney can break everything down further regarding the details of your specific case once you reach out to them.

When it comes to determining whether a previous conviction is a qualifying predicate offense, courts look both to the date of the sentence as well as the type of crime. In a recent case, a New York appellate court clarified that it the original date of sentencing that courts should look to when determining if someone qualifies as a second felony offender.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was adjudicated delinquent for two juvenile offenses in 1988. In 1989, the defendant was convicted of robbery and was sentenced as a second felony offender. Later that year, the defendant was once more convicted of robbery, and was again sentenced as a second felony offender. In 1993, the defendant was convicted of his third adult robbery charge, and was again sentenced as a second felony offender.

After the defendant served his sentences, he moved to set aside both of his 1989 sentences based on the fact that the court erroneously used his juvenile adjudications to sentence him as a second felony offender. The court agreed with the defendant, and in 2008 and 2011, resentenced the defendant retroactively to a reduced term of incarceration.

After the defendant was resentenced on the two 1989 robbery charges, he moved to set aside his 1993 robbery sentence. The defendant argued that the two 1989 robbery charges were no longer qualifying predicate offenses because he was technically sentenced on those (at his 2008 and 2011 resentencings) after the commission of the 1989 robbery offense.

Ultimately, the court rejected the defendant’s argument. The court explained that the legislative intent behind the second-felony-offender statute was avoided by the defendant’s interpretation of the statute. The court also reasoned that the plain language of the statute mentions “sentencing” date and not “resentencing” date. Thus, the court held that the original sentencing date should be considered – even if the sentence imposed at that time was later changed – when determining whether someone qualifies as a second felony offender.

Have You Been Charged with a New York Crime?

If you have recently been charged with a New York crime, and are afraid that your prior record may increase the potential punishment you are exposed to, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense lawyers at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent clients who have been charged with all types of crimes, including New York drug crimes, gun possession, robberies, and violent offenses. To learn more about how we can help defend you against the charges you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.

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