Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals
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The Court of Appeals held that, in these two criminal cases, there was no constitutional violation in the practice of temporarily confining level three sex offenders in correctional facilities, after the time they would otherwise be released to parole or postrelease supervision (PRS), while they remain on a waiting list for accommodation at a shelter compliant with N.Y. Exec. Law 259-c(14).New York statutes allow the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to place a Sexual Assault Reform Act (SARA)-restricted sex offender temporarily in a residential treatment facility (RTF) until SARA-compliant housing is identified. At issue was whether the Federal Constitution allows DOCCS to place a SARA-restricted sex offender in an RTF or other correctional facility while awaiting SARA-compliant housing. The Court of Appeals held that the practice is constitutional. View "People ex rel. Johnson v. Superintendent, Adirondack Correctional Facility" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming County Court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a stop of the vehicle in which Defendant was a front seat passenger, holding that the People failed to meet their burden of coming forward with evidence sufficient to establish that the stop was lawful.A police officer stopped a vehicle when his patrol car's mobile data terminal notified him that something was similar about the registered owner of the vehicle and a person with an outstanding warrant, known as a "similarity hit." The officer arrested Defendant after observing a handgun on the floor of the front passenger seat where Defendant was sitting. Defendant was neither the registered owner of the vehicle nor the person with the warrant. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the stop. County Court denied the motion, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that where the People presented no evidence about the content of the similarity hit, the suppression court could not independently evaluate whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to make the stop. View "People v. Balkman" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division reversing Defendant's conviction of manslaughter in the first degree and denied Defendant's motion to suppress DNA evidence from a Defendant's body by buccal swab, holding that there was no violation of Defendant's constitutional rights in this case.After the victim was shot, the People obtained a warrant to obtain a saliva sample for DNA testing from Defendant. Defendant moved to suppress the DNA evidence, asserting that the search warrant application failed to set forth probable cause that he committed the homicide and failed to articulate how the DNA profile related to the homicide investigation. The court denied the suppression motion. Defendant was subsequently convicted. The Appellate Division reversed and granted Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that Supreme Court erred in precluding defense counsel from reviewing the search warrant application and in denying counsel the opportunity to be heard on the issuance of probable cause. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the requirement set forth in Matter of Abe A., 56 NY2d 288 (1982), of notice and an opportunity to be heard in the pre-execution stage of a warrant authorizing the seizure of evidence by bodily intrusion was satisfied in this case. View "People v. McIver" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction of second-degree assault, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in giving the jury a curative instruction and forgoing a Buford inquiry of a sworn juror after her exclamation during trial that she was very offended by the repetitive use of a racial slur by Defendant's counsel while cross-examining the victim.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion as a matter of law in its response to the juror's disruption of the trial. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding (1) the court's curative instruction was a "thorough and sensible approach" that addressed each of the concerns raised by counsel and reached the same result that would have been afforded by a Buford inquiry of the single juror; and (2) therefore, the court's remedy was not an abuse of its discretion. View "People v. Batticks" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the automobile stop in this case was unlawful and clarified the law of New York as it is presently understood by all four Appellate Division departments, holding that the Appellate Courts are unanimous in employing the elevated probable cause standard set forth in People v. Robinson, 97 NY2d 341 (2001), required for an officer to validly stop a vehicle for a Vehicle and Traffic violation.Defendant was charged with firearms-related and drug-related offenses. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the trooper who stopped his vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion to do so. County Court denied suppression of the physical evidence, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered that Defendant's motion to suppress be granted in its entirety, holding that the trooper in this case lacked probable cause to believe that Defendant had committed a traffic violation and identified no credible facts establishing reasonable cause to believe that Defendant had violated a law. View "People v. Hinshaw" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law (CPL) 710.70(2) grants a defendant the right to review of a suppression decision when the order related exclusively to a count that was satisfied by a guilty plea but was not one to which the defendant pleaded guilty.Defendant was charged with two counts of burglary in the second degree. The first count related to a laptop computer, and the second count related to jewelry. Defendant moved to suppress the jewelry, but Supreme Court denied the motion. Defendant then pleaded guilty to one count of burglary in the second degree as charged in the count pertaining to the theft of the laptop computer, in satisfaction of the count charging the burglary of jewelry. On appeal, Defendant argued that Supreme Court erred in denying his motion to suppress the jewelry. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that it was jurisdictionally precluded from reviewing the suppression order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) Defendant's right to appellate review of Supreme Court's suppression order was secured by CPL 710.70(2); and (2) because the Appellate Division did not reach the underlying suppression question the case must be remitted to the Appellate Division for further proceedings. View "People v. Holz" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division concluding on direct appeal that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, holding that Defendant, on this record, did not sustain his burden to establish that counsel was constitutionally ineffective.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial counsel's failure to challenge a prospective juror constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the record was inadequate to review Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim; and (2) the appropriate procedure for the litigation of Defendant's challenge to his counsel's performance was a N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 440.10 motion. View "People v. Maffei" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the opinion of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction of first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, holding that there was legally sufficient evidence of Defendant's "intent to defraud, deceive or injury another" within the meaning of N.Y. Penal Law 170.30.On appeal, the Appellate Division held that the jury could reasonably have inferred from the evidence that Defendant knowingly possessed counterfeit money with fraudulent intent. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a rational jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant intended to pass the counterfeit bills in his possession and thereby defraud others; (2) Defendant's objections to the admission of certain testimony were unpreserved; and (3) the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to justify the original stop of Defendant. View "People v. Britt" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction, holding that the trial court abused its discretion as a matter of law and committed reversible error when it refused to allow Defendant to cross-examine two police officers in two specific areas involving officer dishonesty, holding that a law enforcement witness may be subject to cross-examination with respect to a its of dishonesty not proven at trial.In an shooting incident during which no one was injured two police officers identified the shooter as Defendant. At trial, the People's case rested almost entirely on the police officers' identification of Defendant as the shooter. Defendant was convicted of attempted murder in the second degree and related firearm counts. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) a defendant should be permitted to explore specific allegations of wrongdoing relevant to the credibility of a law enforcement witness, and law enforcement witnesses should be treated in the same manner as any other witness for purposes of cross-examination; and (2) Defendant was denied a fair trial inasmuch as the trial court refused to allow him to explore misstatements one of the officers made to a federal prosecutor. View "People v. Rouse" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming a Supreme Court judgment enjoining a three-day music and camping festival on Landowner's rural property in the Town of Delaware, holding that the challenged provisions of local zoning laws did not unconstitutionally restrict Landowner's First Amendment rights and were not void for vagueness.Landowner planned to sponsor on his sixty-eight-acre property a three-day event during which attendees would camp on the property and view live outdoor music performances. The Town commenced this action seeking an injunction against the event, alleging it was prohibited by the Town's Zoning Law. Supreme Court granted the Town's motion for summary judgment and permanently enjoined Landowner from holding the festival on his property. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that that relevant Zoning Law provisions were content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions compatible with the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the zoning provisions at issue satisfied the intermediate scrutiny test for content-neutral time, place and manner restrictions and survived Defendant's overbreadth challenge; and (2) Landowner's facial and as-applied void for vagueness challenges likewise failed. View "Town of Delaware v. Leifer" on Justia Law