Articles Posted in Criminal Procedure

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Defendant, a 16 year old boy, is charged with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property both arising out of an alleged pocket-book snatch on May 1, 1978. He was arraigned the next day and held in bail pending a hearing which was held on May 18, 1978. Both charges are class A misdemeanors carrying a maximum penalty for non-youthful offenders of one year’s incarceration. Inasmuch as this 16 year old defendant has never been convicted of a crime or found to be a youthful offender, he is eligible for mandatory adjudication as a youthful offender carrying a maximum penalty of six months incarceration. In this instance, because he must be accorded this mandatory adjudication, the statute requires a single judge trial without a jury. Had the defendant already once been adjudicated a youthful offender thus placing his being treated as such on this occasion within the court’s discretion, he would be entitled to trial by jury.

Defendant now challenges the constitutionality of the statute depriving him of a jury trial. The court is here presented with a constitutional challenge to Criminal Procedure Law § 340.40(7) which denies trial by jury to a youth who is eligible for mandatory youthful offender treatment at the same time this right is available to any other defendant, a discretionary youthful offender included, who is charged with the same crime.

The limited power of trial courts to strike down a State statute as unconstitutional has been stated repeatedly. Particularly courts of first instance should not exercise transcendent power of declaring an act of the Legislature unconstitutional except in rare cases where life and liberty is involved and the invalidity of the act is apparent on its face.

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In the latter part of 1992 and during the beginning of 1993, the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York was inquiring into allegations that substantial sums of money had been stolen from a certain Royalty Trust (the “Trust”), which fund was established to benefit the citizens of a certain Republic (the Republic). In connection with this criminal investigation, in February 1993, an investigator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office (the “US Investigator”), served “Y”, a resident of California, with a grand jury subpoena. Although Y did not ultimately testify before a federal grand jury, he took part in approximately four debriefings with federal prosecutors and investigators in the Southern District during the latter part of February and March 1993.

After one such debriefing on March 5, 1993, at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and under the direction of US Investigator, Y telephoned defendant, an attorney residing in Florida. US Investigator recorded this call in the presence of, Y’s attorney at the time, Assistant U.S. Attorneys (hereinafter “AUSA”) A and B, and FBI Agent H. The federal authorities proposed making this call to defendant in Florida in an attempt to obtain information on past allegedly criminal activities involving the disappearance of Republic’s money and to gather information respecting what they believed to be on-going criminal behavior in connection with the solicitation of so-called “prime bank notes” and “standby letters of credit”. A review of the transcript of the taped conversation between Y and defendant reveals that both past and on-going activities were discussed during the call.

While that the federal government was investigating the Republic Trust matter, a civil litigation–initiated to recover Republic’s allegedly stolen money–was underway in the High Court of Justice in London. As part of this civil action, both defendant and Y were subpoenaed to give testimony in late December 1992. Shortly thereafter, Y talked with defendant about obtaining legal representation. Y learned that defendant had retained an attorney (the “Attorney”), a member of the Florida bar, to represent him in connection with the London litigation. Y could not specifically recall how defendant described the nature of Attorney’s representation, but he did remember that defendant spoke of the possible need for a criminal defense attorney in connection with the Republic Trust matter. Defendant also advised Y that if he needed a computer fraud lawyer, he should contact Attorney for a referral.

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The surety herein applies for an order under sections 597 and 598 of the Code of Criminal Procedure remitting the forfeiture of cash bail deposited by her for and on behalf of the defendant, who was theretofore charged with disorderly conduct in violation of subdivision 8 of section 722 of the Penal Law.

A New York Criminal attorney said that the facts explaining and excusing the defendant’s failure to appear for a hearing on April 30, 1953, have been fully set forth in the moving papers and warrant the exercise of discretion by this court in remitting the forfeiture of the bail deposit heretofore made by the surety if this court has the power to order such remission.

Upon the argument of the appeal, and in answer to the court’s inquiry as to why this motion was not made in the County Court of Queens County, the court was informed that that court had refused to entertain applications for remissions of forfeitures not originating in that court.

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Numerous defendants were arrested in a series of raids in Chinatown, carried out by police officers armed with search warrants.

A New York Criminal lawyer said that the amended informations charge the defendants with the crimes of promoting gambling and possession of gambling devices in violations of sections 225.05 and 225.30 of the Penal Law, in that each defendant acted as a ‘Dealer,’ ‘Cutter,’ ‘Manager/Moneyman’ or ‘Security’; listing the gambling activities as ‘Poker,’ ‘Fantan’ and ‘Dominoes.’

In these omnibus motions the defendants move to dismiss the accusatory instruments upon the grounds (1) the specified gambling statutes are unconstitutional, and (2) the ‘People are guilty of selective and discriminatory prosecution.’ In the alternative the defendants move for (a) a preliminary hearing pursuant to section 170.75 of the Criminal Procedure Law, and (b) the suppression of the evidence seized.

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Policy considerations, however, may militate against entertaining an action for declaratory judgment that is instituted to challenge a criminal court’s ruling. On this basis, both declaratory relief and prohibition have been limited as a means for attacking penal statutes or court rulings. On reviewing the reasons underlying those decisions, it is concluded that the action here is proper. Declaratory relief, on the other hand, generally seeks a determination of rights before a “wrong” occurs, rather than collateral review of a court’s ruling. In that context, it has been used to test penal statutes. Two tacks have been taken in seeking declaratory relief with regard to criminal laws. First, some have sought a determination whether particular conduct violates some penal law. The other has been to test the constitutional validity of a statute. This court generally has held that the latter is proper; the former is more circumscribed.

With this in mind, it can be stated that a declaratory judgment attacking a criminal court’s interlocutory ruling may be granted when the controversy is over the validity of a statute, the determination of which does not require resolving any factual disputes, and there is no immediate attempt to prevent the criminal court from proceeding on the course which it has charted by its ruling. Furthermore, the criminal court’s ruling must have an obvious effect extending far beyond the matter pending before it so that it is likely that the issue will arise again with the same result in other cases. Put another way, the situation must be one where it can be assumed that the question will recur in other prosecutions and the criminal court will decide it in the same way. Inasmuch as a defendant always has available a right to appeal, only an application for declaratory relief by the People should be entertained. The recurring nature of the issue, therefore, should pose a risk of significantly obstructing the task of administering criminal justice by imposing an undue burden on prosecutors and the courts. Although this court declines today to expressly limit when such an action may be brought, it is noted that this concern over obstructing the speedy resolution of cases suggests that it is most appropriate when the challenge is to a ruling on how a trial is to be conducted. This “procedural” type of question is also the sort that is likely to recur and to be decided in the same manner regardless of the facts underlying the criminal charges. On the other hand, mere evidentiary rulings would not be proper subjects. Finally, the appropriate parties do not include the individual defendant in the case where the challenged ruling was made; as to him or her, there is another pending proceeding and the controversy has been decided. As a corollary, the action for declaratory judgment cannot seek any injunction against the individual defendant or the criminal court.

Applying these factors to the instant proceeding, it is apparent that declaratory relief is proper. Judge ruled that CPL 340.40 (subd. 2) was unconstitutional as applied to prostitution defendants in New York City. The nature of the ruling clearly makes it one that will be repeated unchanged in future prosecutions. Its potential impact on the criminal justice system is manifest from Judge Erlbaum’s own decision. In 1979, a total of only 15 out of 14,247 prostitution cases went to trial in the Manhattan Criminal Court. It can be expected that, if jury trials were available, far more prostitution defendants would demand trials, which would overwhelm the courts and prosecutors by consuming large amounts of time for selecting juries and would cause unmanageable delays.

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Respondent is a Judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York, New York County. In 1981, two women accused of prostitution, which carries a three-month maximum sentence, appeared before the respondent Judge and moved for trial by jury. The defendants argued that CPL 340.40 (subd. 2), directing that crimes punishable by not more than six months’ incarceration shall be heard before a Judge, was unconstitutional because it deprived them of their Sixth Amendment right to jury trial and denied them equal protection of the law. The court granted their motion, reasoning that, notwithstanding its relatively minor sentence, prostitution is a “serious” crime with a concomitant right to trial by jury. The defendants’ equal protection argument was not reached.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said that, petitioner, the District Attorney of New York County, commenced this proceeding to prevent respondent’s order from taking effect. Initially, the matter was instituted under CPLR article 78 to obtain a writ of prohibition. Petitioner moved to convert the proceeding into an action for declaratory judgment after this court stated that prohibition is not available to attack a criminal court’s ruling that a statute denying a trial by jury is unconstitutional. Special Term granted the motion to convert and declared that CPL 340.40 (subd. 2) is constitutional. The Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed, but without opinion.

The issues in this case are: first is the procedural propriety of an action seeking declaratory relief that, in effect, collaterally attacks a criminal court’s ruling. The other matter, assuming that the action is proper, is whether CPL 340.40 (subd. 2) violates the Sixth Amendment.

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This is a proceeding wherein the defendant, J, is charged with eleven counts of having multiple unregistered, unlicensed motor vehicles on his property at 2401-2403 Route 9G in the Town of Hyde Park without site plan approval to operate a junkyard in violation of Hyde Park Code (HPC) §108-2, §108-23, §108-32, §108-33 and §108-39.

The criminal defendant was served with an Order to Remedy Violation on or about 12 July 2005 issued by A, the Deputy Zoning Administrator. The Order cited defendant for business related activities occurring at the above premises by the storage of unregistered and unlicensed motor vehicles without prior site plan approval and directed defendant to comply with the law and to remedy the condition on or before 26 July 2005. Subsequently, A issued an appearance ticket, dated 27 July 2005, made returnable on 8 September 2005, on which date a twelve count Information was filed on his complaint. The arrest was made.

Defendant appeared by counsel who orally moved to dismiss the Information on facial sufficiency grounds. The motion was denied without prejudice to renew in writing. The case was adjourned to September 22nd for trial.

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In this criminal case, respondent is alleged to have committed acts which, were he an adult, would constitute the crimes of Escape in the First Degree, Escape in the Second Degree, and Escape in the Third Degree. The petition alleges that by order of the Family Court, Bronx County, respondent was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent, and placed in the custody of the New York State Division for Youth for a period of up to eighteen months upon the court’s finding that he had committed a felony. In accordance with the Family Court’s order of disposition, the Division for Youth placed the respondent with the Berkshire Farm 2 facility for a period of up to six months.

A Bronx County Criminal lawyer said that the petition further alleges that while respondent was placed with the Division for Youth and in the custody of Berkshire Farm, he was transported to the New York County Family Court by Berkshire Farm staff members, in accordance with a court order, so that he could be present for an initial appearance upon a juvenile delinquency petition, arising out of an incident which occurred in July 1996, where it is alleged that respondent committed acts which would constitute, inter alia, Grand larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony.

According to a supporting deposition of an employee of Berkshire Farm, he and other staff members arrived at the New York County Family Court building in the morning. Shortly after their arrival, respondent requested breakfast and was escorted from the building to a sidewalk vendor who was located in front of the courthouse. Then the employee and the respondent reentered the courthouse and stood side by side as they waited on line to enter the metal detectors.

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Criminal law is an area can be rather complex especially where there are several charges against a person arising out of one event or the alleged acts were committed against the same person or group of persons. This issue arose in the People v Estevez where there was an issue of consolidation versus severance.

In the People v Estevez, the defendant was charged with three crimes occurring on three separate dates at the same location and involving the same complaining witness in a first docket. He was then charged with three counts of criminal contempt in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor for violating an order of protection issued by the court on the first docket and harassment in the first degree, a class B misdemeanor. The People then sought to consolidate the two matters which is a procedure by which the prosecutor or defendant attempts to have two or more separate offenses combined for a single trial. Additionally upon consolidation the prosecution stated that the criminal contempt charge would be reduced to attempted criminal contempt, a class B misdemeanor.

The prosecution sought to consolidation the charges because the alleged facts showed pattern of harassment of same complainant and all charges were same or similar in law. In this case, the three counts of contempt of court flowed from the first charges as such consolidation would be appropriate. The defendant however, opposed motion and asserted that, if consolidation were granted, defendant would be exposed to more than six months imprisonment, which would entitle him to trial by jury. The prosecutor could not act in good faith by reducing several “serious charges” to which defendant would be entitled to jury trial to “petty offenses” and then move to consolidate them for purpose of joint trial in which the potential sentence would be that of “serious offense” that is more than six months of imprisonment may be imposed, while denying defendant right to trial by jury.

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The defendant man charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia in the Second Degree and Unlawful Possession of Marijuana moves to dismiss the accusatory instrument on speedy trial grounds alleging that the complainants failed to announce their readiness for trial within the applicable ninety day statutory period mandated by Criminal Procedure Law (CPL). The complainants concede, in their Affirmation in Opposition, that their announcement of readiness for trial was not made until the ninety-first day after the filing of the accusatory instrument. They assert, nonetheless, that their announcement of readiness was timely for reasons, namely that the defendant’s pre-conversion oral request for a copy of the search warrant underlying the defendant’s arrest, is an excludable pre-trial delay as provided in CPL even if the Court would disallow the request for a copy of the search warrant as an excludable pre-trial delay, as the day on which the complainants would have been required to announce their readiness for trial fell on a Sunday, the General Construction Law permits a timely announcement of readiness on the following business day (in the instant case, the ninety-first day which fell on a Monday).

The Court disagrees with both of the complainants’ contentions and, for the reasons that follow, grants the defendant’s motion to dismiss the accusatory instrument on speedy trial grounds. Robbery was not an issue.

The instant motion arises from the following facts and procedural history. The defendant was arrested on the aforementioned charges. The misdemeanor complaint, in relevant part, reads that the deponent entered the premises pursuant to a search warrant issued and observed the defendant standing in a bedroom with a quantity of crack/cocaine possession and a quantity of marijuana on top of a dresser in open view.

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