Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals
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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction of unlawfully possessing a firearm, holding that the lower courts properly concluded that Defendant was not entitled to a jury charge regarding temporary and lawful possession.On Defendant's appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that there was no reasonable view of the evidence under which Defendant was entitled to a temporary and lawful possession charge. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because there was no reasonable view of the evidence upon which a jury could find that Defendant's initial possession of the firearm was temporary and lawful, Defendant was not entitled to a jury charge on that defense; and (2) Defendant's challenge to the denial of his motion to set aside the verdict was unavailing. View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division insofar as appealed from and ordered a new trial on the count of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, holding that the jury should have been instructed regarding the definition of voluntary possession, and the failure to so charge was not harmless.Defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of marihuana. Based on the trial evidence, Defendant requested that the jury be charged on voluntary possession of the gun. The court denied the requested charge. The jury convicted Defendant of third-degree possession of the gun and unlawful possession of marihuana. The Appellate Division modified and affirmed, summarily rejecting Defendant's challenge to the jury instructions. The Court of Appeals reversed Defendant's conviction of third-degree possession of a weapon, holding that a reasonable juror could have concluded that Defendant had constructive, knowing, but not voluntary, possession of the gun in question for a brief moment, and therefore, the failure to instruct the jury regarding the definition of voluntary possession was not harmless. View "People v J.L." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Appellate Court vacating Defendant's convictions of two counts of attempted murder in the first degree and two counts of attempted murder in the second degree, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions.At issue was whether the People proved that Defendant and his purported coconspirator took any actual step toward accomplishing Defendant's plan to kill his wife and mother-in-law beyond mere conversations and planning. The Appellate Division concluded that the evidence was legally insufficient to establish that Defendant engaged in conduct that came "dangerously near commission of the completed crime." The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence that the intended crimes were dangerously close to completion. View "People v. Lendof-Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the condition restricting entry upon school grounds on certain offenders is mandatory only for parolees who have been designated a level three sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) and are serving a sentence for an offense enumerated in N.Y. Exec. Law 259-c(14).Although Petitioner's conviction did not qualify as an enumerated offense under the statute, the Board of Parole determined that, because of his level three sex offender designation, Petitioner was nevertheless subject to the mandatory condition restricting entry upon school grounds. The Appellate Division granted Petitioner's petition for habeas corpus to the extent of annulling that part of the Board's determination that found Petitioner subject to the mandatory school grounds restriction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding than an offender must be serving a sentence for an enumerated offense and be a level three sex offender in order for the mandatory condition to apply. View "People ex rel. Negron v. Superintendent, Woodbourne Correctional Facility" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that, in these two criminal cases, there was no constitutional violation in the practice of temporarily confining level three sex offenders in correctional facilities, after the time they would otherwise be released to parole or postrelease supervision (PRS), while they remain on a waiting list for accommodation at a shelter compliant with N.Y. Exec. Law 259-c(14).New York statutes allow the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to place a Sexual Assault Reform Act (SARA)-restricted sex offender temporarily in a residential treatment facility (RTF) until SARA-compliant housing is identified. At issue was whether the Federal Constitution allows DOCCS to place a SARA-restricted sex offender in an RTF or other correctional facility while awaiting SARA-compliant housing. The Court of Appeals held that the practice is constitutional. View "People ex rel. Johnson v. Superintendent, Adirondack Correctional Facility" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that New York statutes allow the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to place a Sexual Assault Reform Act (SARA)-restricted sex offender temporarily in a residential treatment facility (RTF) until SARA-compliant housing is identified.Under N.Y. Penal Law 70.45(3), the board of parole may impose as a condition of postrelease supervision (PRS) that for a period not exceeding six months immediately following release from an underlying term of imprisonment the person be transferred to and participate in the programs of an residential treatment facility (RTF). N.Y. Correct. Law 73(10) authorizes the DOCCS to use any RTF as a residence for persons who are on community supervision, which includes those on PRS. The Court of Appeals held that Correction Law 73(10) authorizes DOCCS to provide temporary housing in an RTF to sex offenders subject to the mandatory condition set forth in the SARA, N.Y. Exec. Law 259-c(14), after the six-month period specified in Penal Law 70.45(3) has expired but before the offender on PRS has located compliant housing. View "People ex rel. McCurdy v. Warden, Westchester County Correctional Facility" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming County Court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a stop of the vehicle in which Defendant was a front seat passenger, holding that the People failed to meet their burden of coming forward with evidence sufficient to establish that the stop was lawful.A police officer stopped a vehicle when his patrol car's mobile data terminal notified him that something was similar about the registered owner of the vehicle and a person with an outstanding warrant, known as a "similarity hit." The officer arrested Defendant after observing a handgun on the floor of the front passenger seat where Defendant was sitting. Defendant was neither the registered owner of the vehicle nor the person with the warrant. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the stop. County Court denied the motion, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that where the People presented no evidence about the content of the similarity hit, the suppression court could not independently evaluate whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to make the stop. View "People v. Balkman" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division reversing Defendant's conviction of manslaughter in the first degree and denied Defendant's motion to suppress DNA evidence from a Defendant's body by buccal swab, holding that there was no violation of Defendant's constitutional rights in this case.After the victim was shot, the People obtained a warrant to obtain a saliva sample for DNA testing from Defendant. Defendant moved to suppress the DNA evidence, asserting that the search warrant application failed to set forth probable cause that he committed the homicide and failed to articulate how the DNA profile related to the homicide investigation. The court denied the suppression motion. Defendant was subsequently convicted. The Appellate Division reversed and granted Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that Supreme Court erred in precluding defense counsel from reviewing the search warrant application and in denying counsel the opportunity to be heard on the issuance of probable cause. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the requirement set forth in Matter of Abe A., 56 NY2d 288 (1982), of notice and an opportunity to be heard in the pre-execution stage of a warrant authorizing the seizure of evidence by bodily intrusion was satisfied in this case. View "People v. McIver" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction of second-degree assault, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in giving the jury a curative instruction and forgoing a Buford inquiry of a sworn juror after her exclamation during trial that she was very offended by the repetitive use of a racial slur by Defendant's counsel while cross-examining the victim.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion as a matter of law in its response to the juror's disruption of the trial. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding (1) the court's curative instruction was a "thorough and sensible approach" that addressed each of the concerns raised by counsel and reached the same result that would have been afforded by a Buford inquiry of the single juror; and (2) therefore, the court's remedy was not an abuse of its discretion. View "People v. Batticks" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed Defendant's conviction of criminal contempt, as charged in an amended accusatory instrument, holding that the lower courts erred in permitting amendment of a clearly erroneous fact contained in the information charging Defendant with harassment and contempt in the second degree.Defendant pleaded guilty to criminal contempt and received a ninety-day jail sentence. The Appellate Term affirmed Defendant's conviction, holding that the factual amendment of a clearly erroneous date was permissible under People v. Easton, 307 NY 336 (1954). The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the legislature's replacement of the Code of Criminal Procedure with the modern Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) displaced Easton and precluded prosecutors from curing factual errors or deficiencies in informations and misdemeanor complaints via amendment; (2) the CPL requires a superseding accessory instrument supported by a sworn statement contains the correct factual allegations; and (3) because the trial court lacked the authority to permit the amendment, the accusatory instrument was jurisdictionally defective. View "People v. Hardy" on Justia Law