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Defendants Claim Insufficient Evidence in Theft Charges


The petitioner was adjudicated delinquent on the charge of petit larceny of items valued at $100 or more but less than $300, a first degree misdemeanor. Although the State presented evidence about the items taken, it offered no evidence of their value. The petitioner failed to object, however, or to move for judgment of acquittal on this ground. The petitioner raised the claim for the first time on appeal, asserting fundamental error. The Fourth District held that the issue must be preserved for appeal. Similarly, in the conflict case, another petitioner argued for the first time on appeal that a delinquent adjudication for first-degree petit theft must be reduced to second-degree because the State failed to prove the value of the stolen items. The Second District Court of Appeal, relying on a similar case decision receded from on other grounds concluded that the failure of proof on the essential element of value was fundamental error and reversed.

In a similar case, the opponents were convicted of two counts of breaking and entering with intent to commit grand larceny. As did the petitioner, on appeal they alleged that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction on the element of the value of the property stolen. The opponents contended that the State thus failed to present a legitimate case and that it constituted fundamental error. A New York Criminal Lawyer said citing a line of prior decisions, the court rejected the argument and held that unless the issue of sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a verdict in a criminal case is first presented to the trial court by way of an appropriate motion, the issue is not reviewable on direct appeal from an adverse judgment. Because the issue was not preserved, the court held that it was not open to appellate review.

After resolving the conflict issue presented, the Court turned to the petitioners’ contention that there was fundamental error committed as to them in that they were convicted of grand larceny when the State’s evidence did not support a conviction of grand larceny. Again, the petitioners claimed that the State failed to present sufficient evidence of the value of the items stolen. The court reviewed the record and held that the evidence was insufficient to support a grand larceny conviction. The court reversed for entry of a petit larceny conviction.

A Westchester County Criminal Lawyer said that although a similar case tacitly rests on the assumption that the petitioners’ insufficient evidence claim constituted fundamental error, the Court did not address that issue. Thus, while the Second District’s reliance on the case is understandable, the court is reminded that it does not intentionally overrule itself in silence. Where a court encounters an express holding on a specific issue and a subsequent contrary dicta statement on the same specific issue, the court is to apply the express holding in the former decision until such time as the Court recedes from the express holding.

In order for an argument to be cognizable on appeal, it must be the specific contention asserted as legal ground for the objection, exception, or motion. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the Court has explained that the requirement of a contemporaneous objection is based on practical necessity and basic fairness in the operation of a judicial system. It places the trial judge on notice that error may have been committed, and provides him an opportunity to correct it at an early stage of the proceedings. Delay and an unnecessary use of the appellate process result from a failure to cure early that which must be cured eventually.

The requirement of contemporaneous objection thus not only affords trial judges the opportunity to address and possibly redress a claimed error, it also prevents counsel from allowing errors in the proceedings to go unchallenged and later using the error to a client’s tactical advantage.

In conclusion, the court reaffirm, with the two discrete exceptions explicated, the longstanding rule that claims of insufficiency of the evidence must be specifically preserved for appellate review.

Everybody deserves an equal share of the law. When law offenders experience wrong conviction, they are entitled to ask for whatever they believe is fair and just. If you are wrongfully convicted of a crime, ask the NYC Criminal Lawyers from Stephen Bilkis and Associates. You may also ask for the help of the New York City Petit Larceny Attorney or a New York Grand Larceny Lawyer.

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