Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals
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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

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The Court of Appeals held that the automobile stop in this case was unlawful and clarified the law of New York as it is presently understood by all four Appellate Division departments, holding that the Appellate Courts are unanimous in employing the elevated probable cause standard set forth in People v. Robinson, 97 NY2d 341 (2001), required for an officer to validly stop a vehicle for a Vehicle and Traffic violation.Defendant was charged with firearms-related and drug-related offenses. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the trooper who stopped his vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion to do so. County Court denied suppression of the physical evidence, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered that Defendant's motion to suppress be granted in its entirety, holding that the trooper in this case lacked probable cause to believe that Defendant had committed a traffic violation and identified no credible facts establishing reasonable cause to believe that Defendant had violated a law. View "People v. Hinshaw" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction for murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, holding that the trial court did not conduct a "reasonably thorough inquiry" into a sitting juror's unavailability before substituting an alternate juror during Defendant's trial.On the ninth day of Defendant's murder trial, the judge informed the parties that Juror Number 9 was absent. Without stating that it was ordering the substitution, the judge proceeded with Alternate Juror 1 seated in place of Juror Number 9. Alternate Juror 1 served for the remainder of the trial. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, on the record, the court failed to satisfy the requirement that a trial court conduct a "reasonably thorough inquiry" to ensure that its substitution determination is adequately informed. View "People v. Lang" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decisions of the courts below granting Defendant's motion to suppress evidence recovered from a vehicle search, holding that the lower courts erred in relying on this Court's decision in People v. Williams, 4 N.Y.3d 535 (2005), in granting the motion to suppress.Using the emergency lights on his unmarked vehicle, a federal marine interdiction agent with the United States Customs and Border Protection stopped the driver of a vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger for driving dangerously on a public highway. The agent waited in his truck for members of the police department, who searched the vehicle upon their arrival. Defendant moved to suppress the gun recovered from the search as stemming from an unlawful seizure. Relying on Williams, Defendant argued that the stop was not a valid citizen's arrest because the agent used his emergency lights to effectuate the stop. Supreme Court granted the motion. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the agent's conduct did not violate the Legislature's prescribed limits on a peace officer's arrest powers because he was not, in fact, a peace officer; and (2) thus, this Court's decision in Williams was inapposite. View "People v. Page" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law (CPL) 710.70(2) grants a defendant the right to review of a suppression decision when the order related exclusively to a count that was satisfied by a guilty plea but was not one to which the defendant pleaded guilty.Defendant was charged with two counts of burglary in the second degree. The first count related to a laptop computer, and the second count related to jewelry. Defendant moved to suppress the jewelry, but Supreme Court denied the motion. Defendant then pleaded guilty to one count of burglary in the second degree as charged in the count pertaining to the theft of the laptop computer, in satisfaction of the count charging the burglary of jewelry. On appeal, Defendant argued that Supreme Court erred in denying his motion to suppress the jewelry. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that it was jurisdictionally precluded from reviewing the suppression order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) Defendant's right to appellate review of Supreme Court's suppression order was secured by CPL 710.70(2); and (2) because the Appellate Division did not reach the underlying suppression question the case must be remitted to the Appellate Division for further proceedings. View "People v. Holz" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division concluding on direct appeal that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, holding that Defendant, on this record, did not sustain his burden to establish that counsel was constitutionally ineffective.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial counsel's failure to challenge a prospective juror constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the record was inadequate to review Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim; and (2) the appropriate procedure for the litigation of Defendant's challenge to his counsel's performance was a N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 440.10 motion. View "People v. Maffei" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction and affirmed the denial of Defendant's pro se motion pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law (CPL) 440.10 to vacate his conviction of attempted burglary in the second degree, holding that Defendant did not preserve his due process claim that the trial court failed to inform him of potential immigration consequences as a result of his conviction and that Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion in summarily rejecting Defendant's CPL 440.10 motion.Defendant was served, in open court and months before the plea proceedings leading up to his plea of guilty to attempted burglary in the second degree, with a "Notice of Immigration Consequences" form. In affirming both Defendant's conviction on his direct appeal and Supreme Court's denial of Defendant's CPL 440.10 motion the Appellate Division concluded that provision of the notice to Defendant meant that his direct appeal did not fit within "the narrow exception to the preservation requirement." The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's claim on appeal was unpreserved as a matter of law, and no exception to the preservation rule applied; and (2) Supreme Court acted within its discretion in denying Defendant's CPL 440.10 motion without a hearing. View "People v. Delorbe" on Justia Law