One of the most confusing aspects of a New York criminal case for defendants and suspects to navigate is the procedural rules that apply. There are countless procedural rules that apply in criminal cases, which are primarily designed to ensure a fair proceeding and to provide the parties with fair notice about certain decisions, hearings, and events related to the claim. As New York DWI lawyers, we pride ourselves on staying current with procedural changes and ensuring that our clients’ rights are protected at each step of the legal process. Failing to make objections to procedural errors or to hold the prosecution accountable can have dire consequences for a defendant’s rights.
In a recent appellate opinion, the defendant was charged with driving while impaired. In response to the charges, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss after his arraignment. The judge presiding over the motion denied the defendant’s request, and the matter proceeded to a bench trial. A bench trial is a trial that is conducted before a judge without a jury. The same judge who presided over the initial motion presided over the bench trial. Ultimately, the judge found the defendant guilty and issued a sentence against him in response to the conviction.
The defendant appealed the conviction. The matter was heard by the same judge who presided over the pretrial motion and the bench trial. Between the time of the conviction and the defendant’s appeal, the judge was elected to the appellate court. The judge reviewed the defendant’s appeal and upheld the conviction. The defendant appealed again, arguing that the judge should have recused himself from the appeal and that the judge’s failure to do so resulted in a reversible error.
The reviewing court first noted that New York law provides defendants with the fundamental right to an impartial judge. When determining whether a defendant was denied this right, the reviewing court will consider whether the average judge faced with a similar case would likely act neutrally or whether there was an unconstitutional potential for bias. Referring to the basic principles of due process as well as this standard, the appellate court concluded that a judge who presided over a trial may not act as the appellate decision-maker in any appeal that is filed regarding that trial. Allowing a judge to serve as the decider of pre-trial motions, the jury, the sentencer, and the appellate reviewer constituted a “clear abrogation” of New York’s court structure, according to the appellate court. This amounted to not only a likelihood of bias but also an appearance of impropriety. Accordingly, the higher court reversed the appellate judge’s opinion and remanded the matter for consideration by a new judge.
At Tilem & Associates, we have provided experienced and tenacious legal representation to residents throughout New York City. The sooner you consult with a DWI lawyer, the sooner you ensure that you are doing everything you can to protect yourself. Whether you are a suspect in a criminal investigation, facing serious charges, or dealing with advanced legal proceedings, we will fight for your rights and ensure that you are treated fairly. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 1-877-277-8666 or contact us online.