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Court Decides Jurisdiction in Drug Crime Case

In this criminal case, the location of the premises where the alleged drug crime transactions took place is 151 West 228th Street. At the Grand Jury presentation the Assistant District Attorney elicited testimony from the undercover police officers who participated in the sales of drugs and in the arrests of the defendants. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the officers were members of the Bronx Drug Homicide Task Force and the Bronx Narcotic Major Case Unit. They were conducting a long term buy operation at this location and drug purchases were made there on October 18, 1994, October 21, 1994, November 3, 1994, November 4, 1994, and December 3, 1994. Arrest warrants were executed on December 8, 1994.

After the indictment was voted and before motions were made, it came to the attention of some of the defense attorneys that the premises were not in the Bronx but rather in Manhattan. This information was given to the attorney during another proceeding.

Counsel argues strenuously that unless the People prove proper venue before the Grand Jury, the Bronx Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to try this case and the indictment must be dismissed.

The issue in this case is whether the Bronx Supreme Court has jurisdiction to try the drug possession crime case involving the defendants.

The Court in deciding the case said that, it is only mildly disputed that the premises is well within the jurisdictional reach of the Bronx as set by Criminal Procedure Law ยง 20.40(4)(c) which states “an offense committed within five hundred yards of the boundary of a particular county, and in an adjoining county of this state may be prosecuted in either such county.” The prosecutor contends that the premises is only 1 1/2 blocks from the Bronx border; the defense (at this time) will not concede this fact. The court, relying on an official sectional map of the Borough of Manhattan provided to it by the Topographical Bureau, will take judicial notice of the fact that 151 West 228th Street, in the Maple Hill neighborhood, is within 365 yards of the boundary between the Bronx and Manhattan. The map makes it clear that the Marble Hill neighborhood, which used to be part of Manhattan Island, was made a part of the mainland, and therefore the Bronx, when the riverbed of the Spuyten Duyvil Creek was diverted many years ago. Since that time it has been policed and served by Bronx agencies.

It is settled law that the People must prove where drug crimes are committed unless this issue is waived by the defense. A Staten Island Criminal Lawyer said in one of the cases decided by the Supreme Court, the court states that “at common law and under the State Constitution the defendant has the right to be tried in the county where the crime was committed unless the Legislature has provided otherwise. The burden is on the People to prove that the county where the crime is prosecuted is the proper venue because either the crime was committed there or one of the statutory exceptions is applicable. The proof need not be beyond a reasonable doubt, a preponderance of the evidence will satisfy the People’s burden. It is for the jury to decide, as a matter of fact, the place where the crime was committed or any other fact relevant to venue.

If the defense requests the court to instruct the jury to determine the factual predicate for the venue, it has been held to be error to refuse the charge even though the People’s proof with respect to venue is uncontroverted. However, in these motions the defendant’s primary challenge is directed to the sufficiency of the indictment and the absence of the proof concerning the location of the criminal activity given to the Grand Jury. This issue is properly raised in an omnibus motion.

Where a defendant challenges the court’s geographical jurisdiction before trial, the jurisdiction of the county seeking to prosecute must be established before the Grand Jury. A Nassau County Criminal Lawyer said since jurisdiction is not itself an element of the crime, it need only be established by a preponderance of the evidence and the challenge to jurisdiction must fail if the Grand Jury minutes show some evidence from which jurisdiction could be fairly and reasonably inferred from all the facts and circumstances in evidence. Another consideration would be the prejudice, if any, to the defendant.

The court has carefully read the Grand Jury minutes in order to ascertain if jurisdiction in Bronx County could be fairly and reasonably inferred. The grand jurors were given the names, shield numbers and commands of the undercover officers involved in this case. They are all Bronx police officers. The address of the premises was also repeated several times because the Assistant District Attorney asked location questions of all of the officers who testified.

Therefore, the Court finds that jurisdiction in Bronx County can be fairly and reasonably inferred from all the facts and circumstances introduced into evidence, even without the explicit mention of the 500 yard rule. The evidence presented to the Grand Jury was legally sufficient to sustain the indictment. The presentation of the evidence was proper and the Grand Jury was properly instructed in the law.

If you are involved in a drug crime incident, contact Stephen Bilkis and associates for free legal advice. Our Bronx Criminal Attorneys and Bronx Drug Crime Attorneys will help you with your case and explain to you the legal consequences of your charges in criminal law.

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