This case is taking place in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department. The appellant in the matter is the People of the State of New York. The respondent in the case is F.W. The defendant is appealing a judgment made by the County Court of Suffolk County that convicted him of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled sentence in the third degree.
A New York Criminal Lawyer said the issue being argued on appeal is whether admission of evidence that the defendant, who was on trial for a single sale of cocaine, sold drugs to the same buyer on more than one occasion was an error in the case that requires a new trial in the matter.
On the 20th of April, 2007, the defendant was at a bar located in Westhampton Beach. At this time there was an undercover cop at the bar as well. The undercover police officer saw the defendant hand another person a clear plastic bag that was knotted and containing a white substance. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the defendant and the other individual left the bar separately.
Believing that a drug sale had taken place, the police stopped the buyers truck and recovered a knotted clear plastic bag with a white substance that proved to be cocaine. The buyer then inculpated the defendant and the defendant was arrested two hours later.
When the defendant was arrested he was not in possession of any drugs. He was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree.
The buyer was also charged in regard to possession of cocaine, but agreed to be a witness for the prosecution in return for his case being dismissed.
Before the trial the prosecutor applied for permission to submit testimony from the buyer that stated that he had purchased narcotics from the defendant on more than one occasion. The prosecutor argued that the evidence was admissible because it was probative for the question of identifying the defendant as the person who sold them the drugs.
The defense counsel argued that the defendant would not claim misidentification and only that he did not sell drugs to the buyer on that particular evening. The County Court denied the application of the prosecutor on the basis that the evidence of prior sales would be more prejudice than probative. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the parties were advised that the proof of the uncharged sales might be admissible in a rebuttal depending on the evidence that was submitted in the case.
During the trial the prosecutor renewed his application to introduce evidence of prior drug sales arguing that the defense had opened the door to several defenses including mistaken identity. The court granted the prosecutor the application and allowed the testimony of previous sales to be submitted.
Decision of the Court
The court has reviewed the facts of the case and finds that allowing this evidence to be submitted was in fact an error. A new trial is ordered in this case.
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