Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals
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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Tern affirming Defendant's conviction of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree in satisfaction of the accusatory instrument, holding that the accusatory instrument failed to give Defendant sufficient notice of the charged crime.Defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree for possessing an illegal synthetic cannabinoid. On appeal, Defendant argued that the misdemeanor complaint was jurisdictionally defective because it failed to allege that he possessed one of the synthetic cannabinoid substances listed in N.Y. Public Health Law 3306 (g). The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the misdemeanor to which Defendant pleaded guilty failed to allege a sufficient factual basis to conclude that the substance Defendant possessed was illegal; and (2) dismissal of the remaining count was appropriate. View "People v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Term insofar as appealed from in this criminal case, holding that the court mistakenly relied on amended language in granting Defendant's motion to dismiss the accusatory instrument.Defendant was charged in a single accusatory instrument with three misdemeanor counts and three traffic infractions. Defendant moved to dismiss the accusatory instrument on speedy trial grounds under N.Y. Crim. Proc. (CPL) 30.30. The court denied the motion, and a jury convicted Defendant. During the pendency of Defendant's appeal, the legislature amended CPL 30.30 to add 30.30(1)(e), which states that the term "offense" includes traffic infractions for the purpose of section 30.30(1). The Appellate Term granted Defendant's motion to dismiss the accusatory instrument. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that CPL 30.30(1)(e) had no application to Defendant's direct appeal from his judgment of conviction because the legislature did not mandate retroactive application of the newly-worded CPL 30.30. View "People v. Galindo" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed Defendant's conviction of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, holding that the effect of the trial judge's erroneous evidentiary rulings in this case deprived Defendant of his constitutional right to present a defense.During trial, the court precluded certain evidence proffered by Defendant in support of his justification defense. The court charged the jury on Defendant's justification defense. The jury rejected the defense and convicted Defendant. The Appellate Division reduced Defendant's sentence and otherwise affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a jury should have been allowed to hear and assess the excluded information and then to weigh all of the relevant evidence before reaching a verdict. View "People v. Deverow" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of fraudulent accosting and sentencing him to time served, holding that the complaint was facially sufficient.On appeal, Defendant argued that the term "accost" in N.Y. Penal Law 165.30(1) should be narrowly construed to require "a physical approach and an element of aggressiveness or persistence" that is "directed toward a specific individual rather than the public at large." The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed and affirmed, holding that the accusatory instrument contained factual allegations sufficient to establish reasonable cause that Defendant accosted the potential victims of the scam leading to his conviction. View "People v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division reversing Defendant's convictions for attempted use of a child in a sexual performance and other offenses and holding that a new trial was required based on the admission of certain screenshots, holding that the trial court acted within its discretion in determining that the People properly authenticated the screenshots.Defendant, a high school volleyball coach, was charged with several offenses stemming from allegations that Defendant engaged in injurious acts toward a child by sending numerous text massages containing sexual content to a player on his team. The messages were found by the victim's boyfriend, who took screenshots of them and forwarded them to the victim's mother. At issue was the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to preclude the admission of prints of six of the screenshots on the grounds they were not properly authenticated. The Appellate Division reversed Defendant's convictions for all charges, holding that a new trial was required based on the admission of the screenshots. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion as a matter of law in the court's determination that the screenshots of the text messages were sufficiently authenticated or in the admission of the screenshots into evidence. View "People v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree and robbery in the first degree, holding that there was no evidentiary error in the proceedings below.At issue on appeal was the admissibility of DNA mixture interpretation evidence generated by the TrueAllege Casework System and whether Supreme Court abused its discretion in finding that TrueAllele's use of the continuous probabilistic genotyping approach to generate a statistical likelihood ratio of a DNA genotype is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that TrueAllele was generally accepted under the Frye standard; and (2) there was no error in the court's denial of Defendant's request for discovery of the TrueAllele source code. View "People v. Wakefield" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the appellate division affirming Defendant's conviction, entered pursuant to a guilty plea, to the class A misdemeanor of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, holding that Defendant's claim on appeal was unpreserved for review.On appeal, Defendant challenged the voluntariness of his guilty plea, asserting that the court, in its plea colloquy, failed to advise him that the twenty days of community service to be imposed would be a condition of a one-year conditional discharge sentence. The Court of Appeals affirmed the determination of the appellate division that Defendant's claim was unpreserved, holding that because Defendant failed to protest or otherwise seek to withdraw his guilty plea prior to the imposition of his sentence his claim on appeal was unpreserved for the Court of Appeals' review. View "People v. Bush" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction of four counts of assault in the first degree for his participation in an attack involving two victims, holding that Defendant's allegations of error were unavailing.On appeal, the appellate division considered together Defendant's direct appeal from the judgment and his appeal by permission from Supreme Court's order denying his motion to vacate the judgment. The appellate division denied all relief, concluding that Defendant failed to show that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. On appeal, Defendant argued that his retained attorney's suspension from practice by the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit rendered the attorney "constructively suspended" from the practice of law in New York and that, alternatively, his attorney's failure to inform him of of the suspension and pending reciprocal disciplinary proceedings in New York deprived him of his constitutionally-protected right to choice of counsel. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant was not deprived of the attorney of his choice solely due to the imposition of foreign discipline. View "People v. Burgos" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the second degree, three counts of robbery in the first degree, and two counts of attempted robbery in the first degree, holding that Defendant was not entitled to a new trial based on his absence from a sidebar conference with a prospective juror.In the middle of the voir dire proceeding involving a prospective juror who was ultimately struck when Defendant's codefendant exercised a peremptory strike, Defendant explicitly waived his right under People v. Antommarchi, 80 NY2d 247 (1992), to be present at sidebars. At issue was whether Defendant was entitled to a new trial based on his absence from a pre-waiver sidebar conference with that same prospective juror. The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the claimed error required Defendant's protest in the trial court. View "People v. Wilkins" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed Defendant's conviction on several counts related to the possession of firearms and controlled substances, holding that reversal was required because no Frye hearing was held on the admissibility of statistical evidence generated by the forensic statistical tool (FST) developed by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, where it was alleged that Defendant was a contributor to a multiple-source DNA profile.On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that his motion to suppress should have been granted because the "pedigree exception" to the Miranda requirement did not apply under the facts of his case. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) a police officer's question to Defendant regarding where he lived fell within the pedigree exception to Miranda, and therefore, Defendant's suppression motion was properly denied; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Defendant's motion for a Frye hearing with respect to the admissibility of the evidence derived from the FST on the multiple-source DNA sample. View "People v. Wortham" on Justia Law