New York Appellate Court Finds Trial Court Denied Defendant Right to Counsel During Request for DNA Test

All defendants in New York criminal cases enjoy the right to have the assistance of competent counsel at all critical stages of the case against them. In a recent New York homicide opinion, the New York Court of Appeals determined that a trial judge denied a defendant the right to counsel when the judge asked the defendant to consent to a DNA test without the presence of his attorney.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was arrested and charged with homicide. At some point in the police investigation, biological evidence was located in the apartment where the homicide occurred. In an attempt to match the sample discovered in the apartment to the defendant, the prosecutor filed a motion to obtain a sample of the defendant’s DNA.

At the time the prosecutor made the request, the defendant was represented by counsel. However, shortly thereafter, the court excused counsel from the case. Later, the judge called the defendant in to discuss the DNA test.

The judge asked the defendant if he would consent to the DNA test. The defendant expressed his hesitation, explaining that he was not previously aware of the prosecutor’s request and did not have the opportunity to discuss his decision with an attorney. The defendant explained, “I don’t want to do it. I want to wait for the attorney to be here.”

The judge told the defendant that an “attorney is not going to be able to help you in any way of preventing because I issued the order” and that “it is absolutely a hundred [percent].” Ultimately, the defendant acquiesced, provided the sample, and later pleaded guilty to the charges.

On the initial appeal, the intermediate appellate court determined that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated and dismissed the indictment against him. The prosecutor then appealed the case to the state’s high court.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the intermediate appellate court that the defendant’s right to counsel was violated, but it disagreed with the intermediate court’s remedy. Instead of dismissing the indictment against the defendant, the high court explained that the appropriate remedy would have been to vacate the defendant’s pleas, including the defendant’s consent to the DNA test. Thus, the case was remanded to the lower court to continue toward trial, preserving the defendant’s right to challenge the motion to compel the DNA test.

Are You Facing Serious Criminal Charges?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with homicide in the New York City area, you should immediately reach out to a dedicated New York homicide defense attorney. At the New York criminal defense law firm of Tilem & Associates, we represent clients in a wide range of criminal matters, ranging from drug offenses to homicide charges. We have experience defending clients in courts across New York, including in New York County, Bronx County, Kings County, Queens County, Richmond County, Rockland County, Nassau County, Putnam County, Suffolk County, and Westchester County. Call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated New York criminal defense attorney today.

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