People v. Adorno
Court Discusses whether a Statutory Presumption was Applicable to the Defendant
The defendant along with his accomplices purchased 400 packets of heroin with an intention to sell the controlled substance in Rochester. They were pulled over by the state troopers after the car was driving in a slow and erratic manner and the automobile was searched. The packets of heroin along with a semiautomatic revolver were found in the car that defendant and his accomplice were in. The defendant was charged with criminal possession of controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of weapon in the third degree. The defendant was convicted of all charges while his accomplices pled guilty to the charges criminal possession of controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of weapon in the third degree. The defendant appealed the conviction on several grounds which included defective Grand Jury proceedings, improper amendment of the indictment.
The defendant initially argued that the indictment was to be dismissed because the Grand Jury proceeding were faulty with the presentation of his rap sheet to the Jury in support of the charge that he violated Penal Law § 265.02(1) which were in violation of section 200.60. However, the defendant’s argument lacked merit as his prior conviction elevated the offense under section Penal Law § 265.02(1). Therefore, the prosecution did not act improperly with the presentation of evidence about the defendant’s prior conviction concerning the commission of the offence of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.
The defendant also argued that there was an improper amendment of the indictment. The defendant was initially charged with being criminally liable for his own conduct and also liable for the conduct of his co-defendants. The charged with withdrew prior to the selection of the jury and the jury was only instructed to consider the defendant’s own guilt in the commission of the crime. The amendment was not considered improper by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, since there was no legal difference between an accomplice and a principal. There was no prejudice experienced by the criminal defendant with the amendment. Therefore, this ground was unmeritorious to reverse the conviction. Further the defendant’s assertion that he was prejudiced by the co-defendants pleading guilty was also unmeritorious as the pleas were not taken within the jury’s presence, as such, they would not have knowledge of the plea.
The charges against the defendant were founded on sections 220.25(1) and 265.15(3) which provided that where there was the presence of illegal substance or a firearm in a motor vehicle, there was a presumption that all the occupants were guilty of the illegal possession. However, the presumption could have been rebutted by the testimony of the defendant or other evidence. The defendant sought to rebut the presumption with the testimony of his co-defendant who stated the defendant did not know about the heroin and he did not have possession of the firearm. But he stated that the defendant knew the area and warned him of the troopers in the area with the radar. In light of that testimony, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in permitting the jury to consider that presumption. The Appellate Court was of the belief that the testimony was not believable enough to result in the presumption being incredible. The presumption of illegal possession could have been applied even with the conflicting testimony presented by the prosecution and the defendant. The evidence showed that he had knowledge of the contraband since the defendant was concerned about the presence of the state troopers and the radar, along with his knowledge of the Rochester area and the quantity of the illegal drugs. Therefore, the conviction was affirmed along with the sentence prescribed by the trial court as the defendant had prior convictions.
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