Archive for the ‘ Criminal Defense ’ Category

What Is New York’s “Blindfold” Law?

Posted on: May 17, 2018 by in Criminal Defense, Uncategorized
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In any civil or criminal trial in the state of New York, both sides have to disclose their discovery material – the evidence and testimony gathered in preparation for trial – to the other side.

But New York also has a “blindfold law” that can make it impossible for a criminal defense lawyer to receive the state’s evidence early enough to review that material before a trial.

HOW DOES THE LEGAL PROCESS OF DISCOVERY AND DISCLOSURE WORK?

The process of discovery and disclosure works very differently in civil and criminal cases in this state.

In civil trials – discrimination and personal injury cases, for example – both attorneys have the virtually unlimited right to depose one another’s witnesses, conduct a thorough investigation, and disclose discovery material to the other side in a timely manner.

Criminal trials are significantly different. District attorneys in the state of New York are not compelled by law to disclose any witness statements or police reports to the defense until immediately before the trial actually begins.

With no time to review or make use of the discovery evidence, it’s as if defense attorneys in New York are blindfolded until the moment that a trial begins.

The result is that a defendant and his or her criminal defense lawyer may have no idea precisely what evidence a prosecutor is holding against the defendant. And that’s not fair.

IS THE BLINDFOLD LAW ABOUT TO BE CHANGED?

Only three other states permit prosecutors to keep defense attorneys blindfolded – that is, to keep them from examining the discovery material – until the actual first day of the trial.

But New York State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) is proposing legislation that would put the defense on a level playing field with the prosecution in all criminal trials in this state.

WHAT IS ASSEMBLY BILL A7292?

If it becomes law, Assemblyman Lentol’s proposal – Assembly Bill A7292 – would compel prosecutors in New York to disclose, within fifteen days of a criminal defendant’s arraignment:

1. the defendant’s own sworn statement
2. any witness statements
3. any electronic police reports
4. the records regarding any property seized from the defendant

And within ninety days of a criminal defendant’s arraignment, Assembly Bill A7292 would compel New York prosecutors to disclose:

1. witness statements to the police during the first two weeks after the arraignment
2. information regarding prospective expert witnesses
3. any exhibits the prosecution intends to introduce at trial
4. any grand jury statements

WHAT IS SENATE BILL S6848?

State Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) is offering a similar proposal, Senate Bill S6848, which would:

1. require prosecutors to disclose evidence to the defense in a reasonable period of time
2. make the subpoena process more efficient
3. increase protection for informants and witnesses

Without reforms like those that Assemblyman Lentol and Senator Avella are proposing, defense lawyers in the state of New York will continue to have no practical way to assess the strength of a prosecutor’s case.

In other words, unless reforms are adopted, defense attorneys will continue to be blindfolded.

WHAT CAN BE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE BLINDFOLD LAW?

As a result, defense attorneys have sometimes found themselves unprepared for prosecutorial surprises.

A defense lawyer could also end up negotiating a plea bargain without really knowing if a prosecutor has the evidence to convict – or if the prosecutor is in effect bluffing.

While Assembly Bill A7292 lingers in the State Assembly, and Senate Bill S6848 lingers in the State Senate, the supporters of discovery and disclosure reform are making some good arguments.

WHAT ARE THE REFORMERS SAYING ABOUT THE BLINDFOLD LAW?

Tina Luongo, speaking for the Legal Aid Society, points to the irony of a state civil court system that has a more effective discovery and disclosure system than the state’s criminal courts.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James argues that a fair trial is impossible in a criminal justice system that withholds key information from defense attorneys. To present an effective criminal defense, Letitia James insists that a defense lawyer needs to have all of the relevant information.

In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his support for reforming the state’s discovery and disclosure system. “We need discovery reform” as part of a larger package of proposed criminal justice system reforms, Cuomo explained in his annual State of the State address.

And in 2015, the New York State Bar Association called the state’s current discovery and disclosure system “outdated and unfair.”

WHY IS THERE A BLINDFOLD LAW? EXACTLY WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?

Why is discovery material kept from a New York criminal defense lawyer until the day a trial begins?

For twenty-five years, more than a dozen proposals to reform the state’s criminal discovery and disclosure process have failed in the New York State Legislature.

Historically, district attorneys in New York have persuasively contended that the blindfold on defense attorneys functions to protect witnesses – and that the early disclosure of details about witnesses would place many of those witnesses in danger.

WHAT ARE PROSECUTORS SAYING ABOUT THE BLINDFOLD LAW?

Recently, however, some of the state’s district attorneys have been going above and beyond what the law requires, and they are generally cooperating with defense attorneys in the discovery and disclosure process.

The Brooklyn DA’s office, for example, usually offers full and early discovery.

“We’ve been able to find the right balance in how to keep our witnesses safe and also make sure the process is as transparent and open as possible,” acting district attorney Eric Gonzalez told the New York Times.

And Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. told the Times, “We do provide more than the law allows already.”

IF YOU FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES IN NEW YORK, WHO CAN HELP?

Until discovery and disclosure reforms in New York become discovery and disclosure laws, if you are charged with a crime anywhere in the state, you must be advised and represented by a defense lawyer who understands the implications of the blindfold law.

By conducting a comprehensive, independent investigation of your case, an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney can substantially reduce the possibility that any “surprise” witnesses or evidence might emerge that could damage your defense.

If you are accused of any crime anywhere in the state of New York, you must have an experienced defense lawyer aggressively advocating for justice on your behalf.

When your future and freedom are on the line, get the legal help you need. That is your right.

What Happens When You Violate Probation In New York?

Posted on: April 17, 2018 by in Criminal Defense
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If you are placed under arrest in the state of New York and you are charged with any criminal offense, it is imperative for you to seek sound legal advice and aggressive representation immediately.

Whether you are accused of a serious felony or a less serious misdemeanor – and whether you are in fact guilty or innocent of that crime – you must have an experienced and skilled Westchester County criminal defense attorney advocating for justice on your behalf.

WHAT ADVICE SHOULD YOU FOLLOW IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH A CRIME?

If you have been charged with any crime in New York – even a low-level misdemeanor – do not agree to any “deal” or sign any legal document before you’ve consulted with a defense lawyer you can trust.

As everyone knows, when you are placed under arrest, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Be cooperative with the police if this happens, but exercise your rights and politely decline to answer any questions until your attorney can be present.

When a defendant is convicted of a crime in the state of New York, probation may be among several penalties imposed on the defendant.

But before probation can be formally ordered by the court, a convicted defendant must agree that he or she will adhere to the conditions and terms of the probation, and the offender must sign a statement to that effect.

If you are a defendant facing a criminal prosecution in New York, review any statement or document with your attorney before you sign it.

HOW LONG DOES PROBATION LAST IN NEW YORK? WHAT ARE THE TERMS?

A probation sentence for a felony conviction in New York is typically for five years; for a misdemeanor conviction, probation usually lasts for three years.

If you are sentenced to probation in this state, the terms and conditions will typically include but are not necessarily limited to:

1. getting and keeping a job or attending school
2. avoiding any criminal associates or acquaintances
3. being subject to unwarranted searches and unscheduled drug tests
4. reporting regularly to your probation officer
5. staying compliant with the law and avoiding any new arrest or new criminal charge

HOW ARE VIOLATIONS OF PROBATION HANDLED IN NEW YORK?

Any failure to satisfy the terms and conditions of probation in New York could result in a “VOP,” that is, a violation of probation charge.

If a probation officer believes that a probationer has violated the conditions of probation, the probation officer will “violate” that probationer – that is, the probation officer will report the suspected violation to the court, and a judge will usually issue an arrest warrant.

In other cases, however, a judge may simply issue a summons to appear. Sometimes, a probation officer will make an on-the-spot arrest of a felony probationer and take that person directly to jail.

The probationer will be ordered to appear before a judge for a violation of probation hearing.

If you are the person charged with violating probation, you must be accompanied at a VOP hearing by an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN AT A VOP HEARING?

Your defense lawyer may be able to persuade the judge that you did not violate the terms of your probation.

But when the evidence against a probationer is conclusive, and that probationer is convicted of violating probation, the court may:

1. revoke the probation and order the offender to jail or prison
2. restore the offender to probation with the same conditions
3. restore the offender to probation with additional – and more stringent – conditions

If you are on probation in New York, you have already been convicted of a crime, so some of the rules that would normally govern a criminal trial will not apply at a violation of probation hearing.

IF YOU FACE A VOP CHARGE, WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?

Probationers facing violation of probation charges in New York have no bail rights and no right to a trial by jury. Some New York judges will set bail in some VOP cases; most judges will not.

Thus, many offenders who face a violation of probation charge in New York end up waiting in jail until the VOP hearing, but a good criminal defense attorney may be able – in some cases – to arrange for bail or to have a probationer released with a promise to appear at the hearing.

If a “preponderance of the evidence” points to a probationer’s guilt at a VOP hearing, that is all the court requires for a conviction. The preponderance of the evidence is basically a 51 percent standard, meaning it’s more likely than not that the defendant is guilty.

In other words, the state can convict you for violating probation without proving the case “beyond a reasonable doubt” – because you have already been proven guilty of the original crime that put you on probation.

HOW IS A VOP HEARING CONDUCTED?

Violation of probation hearings in New York are conducted and decided exclusively by judges.

At a VOP hearing, the state and the defense both present their evidence and arguments.

Witnesses may be examined and cross-examined. The judge considers the evidence and testimony and then renders a verdict based on the preponderance of the evidence.

To convict anyone in this state for a violation of probation, the law in New York says that the probation violation had to be both “willful” and “substantial.”

When a judge determines that a probationer has not, in fact, violated the terms of probation, the probationer will continue to serve out the original probation sentence.

Throughout the state of New York, probationers are supervised by the probation department of each county, but in New York City’s five boroughs, the probation department is under the city government.

HOW CAN A DEFENSE ATTORNEY HELP?

If you are charged with any crime in the state of New York, get the legal help you need at once. That is your right. A good defense lawyer will protect your rights and will fight aggressively to bring your case to its best possible conclusion.

But if the evidence against you is persuasive, and you are convicted of a criminal charge in New York, understand that if you are sentenced to probation, you are fortunate – and you could easily be in jail or prison.

Take full advantage of probation – if that’s the sentence – and avoid any more trouble by adhering strictly to your probation’s terms and conditions.

Is New York’s Bail System Unfair?

Posted on: March 16, 2018 by in Criminal Defense
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Many of the persons sitting in New York jails haven’t been convicted of anything. They’re awaiting trial, and they are stuck in jail because they can’t afford to pay their bail.

On a typical night, about four thousand suspects are in New York City’s various jails because they cannot pay a cash bail to get released before trial.

In its own way, the city is reforming its cash bail system. Some believe a cash bail requirement unconstitutionally punishes the poor merely because they are poor.

It’s part of a national movement to change the way that presumably innocent criminal suspects are treated after an arrest but before a trial.

PRECISELY WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF BAIL?

After an arrest, bail is what a suspect must pay to the court to be released while awaiting trial.

Nationally, critics charge that the bail system unfairly discriminates against the poor. More affluent defendants can afford bail and be released. Less affluent defendants cannot.

The upshot is that less affluent defendants lose their freedom and stay trapped in jail simply because they are poor. And that, many are saying, violates the United States Constitution.

WHERE IS THE BAIL SYSTEM CHANGING?

In 2017, for example, a federal judge ruled that one Texas county’s bail system unfairly impacted the poor and violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection requirement.

Efforts to eliminate cash bail are currently underway in a number of states including Colorado, New Jersey, and California as well as New York.

Many New Yorkers were unaware that bail is even an issue prior to the death of Kalief Browder.

Browder committed suicide in 2015 after sitting in jail for three years awaiting trial. He had no money for bail and was never convicted of the original robbery charge that sent him to Rikers.

For the moment, non-profit organizations and groups like the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, the Liberty Fund, and the Bronx Freedom Fund are paying bail costs for some of the lower-income suspects who are accused of misdemeanors in New York City.

IS SUPERVISED RELEASE A PRACTICAL ALTERNATIVE TO CASH BAIL?

The city has additionally increased its support for a no-cash bail, supervised release program that permits defendants to stay in contact with a supervising agency – in person or over the phone – while awaiting trial.

The supervised release program has handled several thousand defendants in the past two years. Almost all of these defendants show up for their scheduled court appearances.

However, domestic violence suspects are not eligible for the program, and other defendants may be placed on supervised release only with the approval of a prosecutor.

Prosecutors in Brooklyn and Manhattan have pledged to end the practice of requiring a cash bail from low-level misdemeanor defendants, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has also expressed support for the statewide abolition of the cash bail system.

But already, bail is almost never required of defendants charged in New York City with crimes like marijuana possession or turnstile jumping, and less than 15 percent of third-degree assault defendants have a bail amount set.

IS THERE STILL SUPPORT FOR THE CURRENT BAIL SYSTEM?

Moreover, not everyone agrees that cash bail should be completely abolished.

Some New York prosecutors, judges, and bail industry professionals stress that bail has been a practical and useful legal tool for decades – and they ask what will replace it.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, for example, believes that cash bail works well for suspects charged with serious crimes, and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown agrees.

“In Brooklyn, 44 percent of the cases we ask for bail on are domestic violence cases and sex crimes cases,” Gonzalez said.

WHEN BAILS ARE SET, WHAT’S TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT?

When a suspect’s bail amount is determined, a judge in New York considers:

1. the details set forth in the criminal charge
2. a suspect’s criminal record
3. public safety
4. the likelihood that the suspect will fail to appear or will flee the jurisdiction

If a defendant does not appear as scheduled for a court appearance, a warrant will likely be issued by the judge for that defendant’s immediate arrest.

If some prosecutors in New York are expressing reluctance to abandon the cash bail system, one reason is because the prosecutors often use bail as a “bargaining chip” in plea bargain agreements, and they find that it’s a useful tool.

Those who support the current bail system also argue that reforms will cost millions of taxpayer dollars.

HOW CAN THE BAIL SYSTEM IN NEW YORK BE CHANGED?

New York City can’t independently make any actual legal change to the cash bail system. That power resides exclusively in Albany with the New York State Legislature and the Governor’s Office.

“Cities don’t normally have laws that govern what pre-trial justice can look like, so our hands are tied a bit,” according to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

And New York State Senator Michael Gianaris is offering a proposal to end the cash bail system statewide, but he is doubtful that the measure will pass in 2018.

Cash bail may never be fully eliminated in this state, but in the years to come, it may be quite rare. Relaxing the cash bail requirement, however, does not mean that defendants can expect leniency regarding their criminal charges if they are convicted.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED FOR A CRIME, WHO CAN HELP?

In New York City, Westchester County, or anywhere in the state, if you are arrested and charged with a criminal offense, you must have legal help at once.

It is imperative to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible if you are facing any criminal charge in New York.

Criminal suspects have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Take advantage of those rights if you are placed under arrest for any reason.

WHAT’S AT STAKE IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH A CRIME?

Your future and your freedom will be in the balance.

A Westchester County criminal defense attorney can argue to have your bail reduced or to have you released on your own recognizance.

Your lawyer will explain your bail situation, safeguard your legal rights, and fight aggressively for the justice you need and deserve.

After any criminal arrest, you must contact the right defense attorney and have that attorney bring your case to its best possible conclusion. It’s the right call to make.

What Is A Surety Hearing?

Posted on: January 17, 2018 by in Criminal Defense
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Let’s say that you’ve been arrested for a crime in the state of New York.

The judge sets a bail amount at your arraignment – something you can afford.

Then, you get the bad news.

The judge orders a “72-hour surety,” which means that you’ll stay behind bars for 72 hours, even though you can afford to post bail.

What is the definition of “surety” and why do judges in New York require it?

State law in New York basically requires a criminal defendant to prove that the source of his or her bail money is a legal and legitimate source.

New York’s lawmakers do not want illegal drug money, extorted money, money obtained in a robbery, or any other illegal proceeds to be used to bail out criminal defendants who are awaiting trial in this state.

WHY ARE SURETY EXAMINATIONS CONDUCTED?

Therefore, judges in New York order surety examinations to determine if a defendant’s bail money has been legally obtained or if it is the product of criminal activity.

If you are charged with a crime, and a surety hearing or examination is ordered, you will have to prove that your bail money is legally obtained money, and in Westchester, Dutchess, Putnam, Orange, or Rockland County, you’ll need the help of an experienced Peekskill criminal defense attorney.

How is a surety examination conducted, and how can a Peekskill criminal defense lawyer help?

The first question that a New York court will ask is, “Does the person providing the defendant’s bail money have a legitimate and genuine relationship with the defendant?”

The court wants a defendant’s bail money to come from a relative, a co-worker or employer, a neighbor, or a true personal friend – and not from a pusher, a “pimp,” or some other criminal associate.

HOW CAN SOMEONE “PASS” A SURETY EXAMINATION?

For a criminal defendant in New York, the way to make it successfully through a surety examination is to avoid doing anything that might look suspicious – and to make sure that your relatives and friends are not doing anything that appears suspicious, either.

Sometimes, the problem with surety is that friends and relatives panic when a loved one is placed under arrest, and in order to raise bail money, they start rapidly transferring and moving money around.

For example, let’s say that you’ve been charged with a crime in Westchester County, and a judge sets your bail at $50,000.

Your family members can come up with $35,000, and they manage to borrow another $10,000 from their own friends.

Then, they obtain a $5,000 loan.

They dump the entire $50,000 into a single bank account, and then they take the funds back out to post your bail.

What’s happened is that a lot of people who care about you have come to your aid, but what a New York court will see is a burst of chaotic financial activity – a lot of money changing hands in a rapid and disorganized way.

Even if your friends and family acted honestly, and even though the bail money was obtained honestly, it can be difficult for a New York judge to be certain of that without ordering a prosecutor to conduct a thorough surety investigation.

CAN A SURETY EXAMINATION BE AVOIDED?

If you find yourself charged with a crime in New York, and a surety examination is ordered, what can you do to make it easier for the court to verify where your bail money came from?

Is there any way to avoid entirely a surety investigation?

This is where a skilled criminal defense attorney can help, and having an attorney’s help will be imperative.

Why will you need an attorney’s help for a surety examination?

Because if you cannot prove that your bail money was obtained legitimately, the judge can order you to remain in custody.

And if your family and friends have given money to a bail bondsman, there’s no way to ensure that their money will be returned.

A “72-hour surety” means that the prosecuting attorney has 72 hours to investigate the source of your bail money.

After 72 hours, the prosecutor may either consent to your release on bail, if he or she believes that your bail money is legitimate, or the prosecutor may request a surety hearing.

Thus, the best way to deal with the surety issue is for your attorney to show the prosecutor – as early in the case as possible – that your bail money has been honestly obtained.

WHAT DOCUMENTS WILL A PROSECUTOR WANT TO SEE?

Proving that your bail money was honestly acquired will require some effort from an accused defendant and his or her relatives and friends.

Those relatives and friends may have to provide several years’ worth of bank statements, tax returns, and other pertinent financial documents.

All of that information must then be organized and prepared, with your attorney’s help, to present to the prosecutor.

When a New York prosecutor is presented with well-organized documentation and proof that your bail funds have been legitimately acquired, that prosecutor will not demand a surety hearing.

Thus, in terms of the surety issue, anyone can provide bail money for anyone else in the state of New York, but the closer the relationship, the easier it will be for a New York judge to approve a defendant’s release on bail.

WHAT ELSE WILL A DEFENSE ATTORNEY DO FOR A DEFENDANT?

If you are arrested and charged with any crime in the state of New York, don’t resist the police in any way, but politely insist on your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present during any questioning.

Don’t confess to anything or agree to any deal with a prosecutor before you’ve obtained the advice of a criminal defense lawyer in New York.

Your attorney will explain and protect your rights, outline your legal options, fight aggressively on your behalf, and bring your case to its best possible conclusion.

Remember that an arrest is not the equivalent of a conviction.

If you are charged with a crime, you can only be convicted if the state proves your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Your freedom and future are priorities, so if you face any criminal charge in New York, get the legal help you need. You have that right.

Is It Illegal To Record The Police?

Posted on: December 15, 2017 by in Criminal Defense
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Most people today carry a smartphone almost everywhere, which raises this question: Are you allowed to take video of police officers on duty?

Are there specific rules about recording or taking pictures of the police? What if you are shooting video and a police officer tells you to stop – or tries to seize your phone or camera?

What are your rights? If you live in New York, keep reading, because the actions of police officers impact everyone.

Increasingly, the New York Police Department’s activity is recorded by amateurs and citizen-journalists.

Also, increasingly, the courts are affirming that the recording by citizens of on-duty police officers is constitutionally protected.

In 2012, the City of Boston agreed to pay Simon Glik $170,000 after the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Glik had a “constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public.”

2012 was also the year that the Department of Justice issued an unprecedented statement on the right of citizens to record the police.

That statement came after the City of Baltimore paid $250,000 to Christopher Sharp.

Baltimore police officers wrongfully detained Sharp in 2010 and deleted all the videos on his cellphone after he recorded them arresting a friend.

Police demanded his cellphone as evidence and erased everything, including family videos of Sharp with his son.

WHAT POLICY IS NOW BEING ADOPTED BY BIG CITY POLICE DEPARTMENTS?

The Boston Police Department now explicitly instructs its officers not to arrest citizens who are openly recording them in public.

The Baltimore Police Department has established a similar policy. And New York City’s police officers also now understand that they may be recorded on film or video at any time.

In fact, they’ve been ordered to protect the right of citizens to take video.

Video played a substantial role in shaping public reaction to the death of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after an officer placed him in a chokehold, which is forbidden by the NYPD.

A month after Eric Garner’s death, New York City’s cops were reminded that they can’t stop someone from filming them while they’re on duty.

The reminder came in a memo that said, “Members of the public are legally allowed to record police interactions.

Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or ordering the person to cease constitutes censorship and also violates the First Amendment.”

However, that memo also reminded police officers that journalists and videographers may not “interfere with police operations.”

IF YOU TAKE VIDEO OF THE POLICE, WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT?

That’s the important thing for amateurs and citizen-journalists to remember.

Particularly if you are filming or taking video of the police at close range, you must not even inadvertently interfere with a police officer in the performance of his or her duties.

Still, if you are an amateur journalist, or if you simply see an injustice in progress and you try to record it, you must be prepared to protect yourself and your rights.

You should also be prepared to deal with hostile police officers, because you never know if you’ll be dealing with Officer Friendly or Officer Meanie.

Some police officers, especially if they haven’t had proper training, may feel that their authority is being challenged by the mere presence of a photographer or a videographer. And some police officers simply do not know the law.

If you are recording one or more police officers, and the police ask you what you’re doing, be as diplomatic as possible.

Avoid saying anything that sounds accusatory, such as “I’m making sure that you’re doing your job right,” or “The public needs to see this.”

Instead, be as friendly and as cooperative as possible and say something like, “You can see that I’m not interfering, Officer. I’m simply exercising my First Amendment rights.”

WHAT MUST YOU DO IF YOU ARE ARRESTED WHILE TAKING VIDEO?

Amateurs should not let themselves be intimidated. The police may ask for identification, and they may ask, “Who do you work for?”

Don’t let the police bluff you into thinking that the First Amendment applies only to newspapers and TV networks.

If you are taking video because you’re a film or journalism student or you have a YouTube channel, say so.

You have the right to take video of the police for any reason – so long as you’re not interfering – but don’t lie to them.

Even though you have the right to film or take video of the police, you might still be harassed, your phone or camera might be confiscated, and you could even be arrested on some vague charge like disorderly conduct or obstruction of justice.

If that happens to you in New York City, Westchester County or anywhere else in the state of New York, contact an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney immediately.

ARE YOU WILLING TO BE ARRESTED?

If you are recording the police and an officer tells you, “Please stop recording me, it’s against the law,” you’ll have to size up the situation and determine how much the video is worth to you.

It is not a crime to record the police, but that may not stop an officer from lying to you or arresting you.

If you’re willing to be arrested in such a circumstance, that’s fine and even admirable, but there’s nothing wrong with backing down – even if you’re right and the officer is wrong.

Hollywood celebrities may love the camera, but most of us are uncomfortable having complete strangers take our photographs without even asking.

Police officers are no different.

If you are going to take video of the police, even though it’s your right, you should still understand that you’ll probably be making the officers uncomfortable, and while your presence may be tolerated, you most likely will not be welcomed or helped by the police.

If you are legally filming or taking video of the police, and you are arrested on some charge like disorderly conduct or obstruction of justice, an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney can represent you in court and fight for justice on your behalf.

In these kinds of cases, it’s even possible that charges could be dropped after your attorney has an opportunity to speak with the judge.

You have the right to record the police in New York, and the law is on your side.

What Are The Larceny And Theft Laws In New York?

Posted on: November 16, 2017 by in Criminal Defense
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In all times and places, stealing has been against the law, but in the modern world, there are more ways to steal and more types of stealing – identity theft, for example – than ever before.

Stealing includes larceny, burglary, robbery, and more. How are these crimes defined? If you’re wrongly charged with stealing in New York, what is your recourse?

Keep reading. You’re about to learn those answers and more.

Theft – called larceny in New York law – burglary, and robbery are different crimes in this state. All three crimes involve stealing, and convictions for these crimes are sometimes punished harshly.

If you are arrested for larceny, burglary, or robbery in Westchester County or anywhere in New York, reach out at once to an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney for the legal help you’ll need.

What constitutes larceny in New York?

Larceny is simply theft committed without the use of intimidation or force and with the intention of depriving the rightful owner of the property permanently or semi-permanently and exercising control of the property (or enabling a third party to have that control) permanently or semi-permanently.

How is “property” defined?

WHAT IS THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF PROPERTY?

New York lawmakers have spelled out this definition: Property is any “money, personal property, real property, computer data, computer program, thing in action, evidence of debt or contract, or any article, substance or thing of value, including any gas, steam, water or electricity, which is provided for a charge or compensation.”

The value of any “property” is its market value when the crime is committed.

How is larceny prosecuted in New York? What are the penalties for those who are convicted?

“Petit larceny” (petty theft) is the theft of property valued at under $1,000. It’s a Class A misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Grand theft is a felony in New York, and the penalties for a conviction are determined by the value of the property that was stolen:

– Theft of property worth over $1,000 is a Class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
– Theft of property worth over $3,000 is a Class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.
– Theft of property worth over $50,000 is a Class C felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
– Theft of property worth over $1 million is a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

For any grand larceny conviction in New York, the minimum prison term is a year.

Fines may also be imposed on convicted offenders; for grand larceny, the fine is usually twice the value of the stolen property.

All larceny is stealing, but burglary and robbery are defined in New York as crimes that add an additional element – like illegal entry or the use of force – to a crime of theft.

WHAT CONSTITUTES BURGLARY IN NEW YORK?

Every New York burglary is a felony. Someone commits third-degree burglary when he or she “knowingly enters or remains unlawfully” in a building while intending to commit a crime there.

“Entry” is defined as intruding into a building with any part of the body. It need not be forcible “breaking and entering” to constitute burglary.

The crime becomes second-degree burglary if any of these elements are present:

– The building is a dwelling.
– The suspect enters the building while fleeing from another crime.
– The suspect is armed with a deadly weapon or with explosives.
– The suspect injures a non-participant in the crime.
– The suspect appears to display a firearm.

If the building is a dwelling, and if any of the other four conditions listed above are present as well, the crime is charged as a first-degree burglary.

Here’s how offenders convicted of burglary are penalized in the state of New York:

– Third-degree burglary is a Class D felony punishable upon conviction by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
– Second-degree burglary is a Class C felony punishable upon conviction by up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
– First-degree burglary is a Class B felony punishable upon conviction by up to twenty-five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

WHAT CONSTITUTES ROBBERY IN NEW YORK?

Like burglary, every robbery in New York is a felony.

While larceny is the unlawful taking of property with the intent of permanently depriving its rightful owner of that property, robbery additionally requires the use or threat of force.

Robbery is treated as a serious crime in this state because of the threat it poses to public safety.

What are the penalties for persons who are convicted of robbery in New York?

A third-degree robbery is a “simple” robbery with no additional aggravating factors. Third-degree robbery is a Class D felony punishable upon conviction by up to seven years in a New York prison.

A person commits second-degree robbery when he or she is aided in the crime by another person who is present, or when he or she injures a non-participant in the crime, appears to display a weapon, or steals a vehicle.

Second-degree robbery is a Class C felony punishable upon conviction by up to fifteen years in a New York prison.

Someone commits a first-degree robbery when, during the robbery or in flight from it, that person or an accomplice is armed with a deadly weapon, uses or threatens to use it, or causes serious bodily injury to a non-participant in the crime.

First-degree robbery is a Class B felony punishable upon conviction by up to twenty-five years in prison.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE ACCUSED OF STEALING IN NEW YORK?

For any robbery conviction in New York, the court may additionally impose a fine of up to $5,000 or twice the amount taken in the robbery, whichever is higher.

If you are accused of larceny, burglary, or robbery in New York – whether or not you are actually guilty of the crime – you must be represented by an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney.

An arrest and a charge are not the equivalent of a conviction. To convict anyone of larceny, burglary, or robbery in New York, the state must prove its case against that person beyond a reasonable doubt, and that isn’t always easy.

Don’t wait – if you are arrested for one of these crimes, obtain a defense lawyer’s help at once. It’s your right.

Do Warrants Expire In New York?

Posted on: September 18, 2017 by in Criminal Defense
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Here in New York, you can be arrested on the spot if you commit a crime that is observed by a police officer, but if you’re suspected of a serious crime that no police officer observed, in most cases, the police will request an arrest warrant – with your name on it – from a judge.

If you believe – or know – that an active warrant has been issued for your arrest, contact an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney.

If there’s warrant for you, your attorney can explain your rights and help you resolve the matter in the best way possible.

What can happen if there’s an old warrant for you – a warrant that you may not even know about or remember?

Back in May, Christopher Howard was driving a work van into Brooklyn when he was pulled over by the police for running a stop sign.

He explained that the sign was obscured by a car that was double-parked, and the officer was about to let him off with a warning.

The officer explained that he needed to “run” Howard’s driver’s license before he could dismiss him.

The officer learned that Howard had an open arrest warrant for an old unpaid traffic ticket. Howard was handcuffed and taken into custody on the spot.

Courts in New York issue two different types of arrest warrants: felony arrest warrants and bench warrants.

In most cases, these two types of warrants do not expire in New York, so unless a warrant with your name on it is dealt with or recalled by a judge, it can potentially follow you for the rest of your life.

Many people learn about an old bench warrant when their employers conduct background checks for insurance reasons, when they try to reenter the U.S., and they are detained by customs authorities, or when they are stopped by the police, like Christopher Howard, for a minor traffic violation.

HAVE BENCH WARRANTS EVER BEEN CANCELED IN NEW YORK?

Although bench warrants “never” expire, earlier this year, and in response to cases like Christopher Howard’s, more than 600,000 New York bench warrants – all of them ten or more years old – were dismissed.

In August, the district attorneys for Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx acted collectively to dismiss the old warrants and to reduce the number of people who are in the city’s courts and jails for trivial and timeworn charges.

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said the old warrants created needless barriers for scores of New Yorkers seeking apartments and jobs.

What is the difference between a bench warrant and a felony arrest warrant in New York?

Bench warrants are issued when someone fails to appear in court as scheduled, fails to pay a fine ordered by the court, or fails to attend or complete counseling, treatment, drug or alcohol classes, community service, or any other court order.

These documents are called “bench warrants” because they are issued by a judge – “from the bench” – when someone hasn’t obeyed a court order.

Bench warrants are also sometimes issued for violations of probation. When a New York probation officer believes that a probationer has violated the conditions of probation, the probation officer files an affidavit with the court.

Upon reviewing the evidence, a judge may or may not issue a bench warrant for the probationer, and if the warrant is issued, the probationer will be placed in custody and a violation of probation hearing date will be set.

At that time, a good attorney may be able to persuade the judge that no probation violation occurred and that the probationer should be allowed to return to probation with no penalty.

FOR WHAT REASONS ARE FELONY ARREST WARRANTS ISSUED?

Serious crimes in the state of New York can generate felony arrest warrants.

A judge in this state will issue a felony arrest warrant when evidence warranting someone’s arrest is produced by a prosecutor or the police, or after a New York grand jury has issued a felony indictment.

If a felony arrest warrant is issued for you by a judge in New York, consult a criminal defense attorney at once, and do whatever is required to settle the matter.

Unlike bench warrants, felony arrest warrants are to be acted on immediately by New York’s police officers, and a felony arrest warrant is also applicable across state lines.

If there’s a New York felony arrest warrant with your name on it, you can be arrested by the police in any other state – or even in another country – and New York can request your extradition back to this state for prosecution.

The best way to deal with a New York bench warrant or a felony arrest warrant is to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney and go immediately before a judge.

If you are unexpectedly arrested in New York because your name is on a bench warrant or a felony arrest warrant, politely exercise your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present for any interrogation.

Remember, anything you say may be used against you in a court of law, so it’s best for your lawyer to handle any questions or interrogation.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER KINDS OF WARRANTS?

A search warrant is an entirely different type of legal document.

A search warrant gives the police the authority to search your home, person, vehicle, or any other location spelled out by the warrant.

If you are arrested and charged in New York with a crime on the basis of a search warrant, an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney can challenge the warrant on your behalf and argue that any evidence obtained through that warrant cannot be used against you.

If you learn that an old bench warrant or felony warrant is active and that your name is on it, a great deal will depend on the length of time that’s passed and the gravity of the initial charge, crime, or violation.

While some bench warrants can be canceled (or “quashed”) upon your attorney’s request, a felony arrest warrant probably will not be canceled, and at that point, you’ll need an experienced defense lawyer’s dedicated help and advice.

In some cases, the entire matter can be resolved in one hearing, but if the warrant is linked to a serious or violent crime, the person named in that warrant may be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

NYC Updates The “Ban The Box” Policy

Posted on: August 18, 2017 by in Criminal Defense
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Over a hundred cities and counties in the United States have approved “Ban the Box” laws that encourage an employer to judge a job candidate’s credentials without distraction from non-job-related details.

Ban the Box laws give employment seekers a fair opportunity to land a job by removing the criminal background question on job applications and by keeping employers from conducting unnecessary background checks.

In New York City, since 2015, Ban the Box – called the “Fair Chance Act” in New York City – keeps employers from requesting criminal background information from job applicants until after a provisional employment offer is made.

If you have any questions about your rights in the state of New York after a criminal conviction, consult an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney for the answers you need.

Since the Fair Chance Act became law, the New York Commission on Human Rights has offered several revisions to the law, including guidelines for “per se” violations and an explanation of how employers may legally withdraw a conditional employment offer after conducting a background check.

In August of this year, those revisions to New York City’s Fair Chance Act took effect.

WHAT ARE THE CHANGES TO THE FAIR CHANCE ACT?

Today in New York City, employers may not ask about a job applicant’s prior criminal history or even ask to run a background check until a conditional employment offer has been made.

If you are seeking work in New York City and you have any kind of criminal record, you should try to become familiar with the provisions of the Fair Chance Act. “Per se” violations of the Fair Chance Act by employers may include:

– expressing in any written or oral solicitation, policy, advertisement, or publication any employment specification or limitation regarding a criminal history (Phrases like “clean record required” or “must pass background check” cannot be used.)

– using a job application form that asks job seekers for permission to conduct a background check, or an application form that asks anything about an applicant’s criminal history, before making a conditional employment offer

– asking about a pending arrest or conviction before making a conditional employment offer

– using standardized job application forms in New York City – forms that may be legal at the employer’s other locations – which request criminal history information

– failing to provide the applicant with a written copy of an employer’s background check or a written copy of the employer’s Article 23-A analysis (Article 23-A is described below.)

– failing to keep the position open for a minimum of three business days from the applicant’s receipt of the background check and/or Article 23-A analysis

CAN NEW YORK CITY EMPLOYERS WITHDRAW CONDITIONAL JOB OFFERS?

After a conditional job offer has been made, that offer may be withdrawn only because of a misdemeanor, felony, or unsealed violation conviction.

New York City employers, however, must conduct an Article 23-A analysis and must engage with the “Fair Chance Process” prior to withdrawing a conditional job offer.

After making the offer, at that time employers may ask applicants about any criminal background and may conduct background checks after receiving the job seeker’s consent.

If a conviction is discovered, the employer may ask for more details. Those details will be needed for an Article 23-A analysis.

Article 23-A, a New York State law, promotes employment opportunities for job seekers with at least one criminal conviction.

The law “levels the playing field” for job seekers with criminal convictions and reduces recidivism by increasing the employment opportunities in this state for persons with criminal records.

The law requires employers to use these eight factors to determine whether to hire someone with a criminal record.

Employers must consider:

– that New York encourages employers to hire persons with a criminal record
– the specific responsibilities and duties related to the employment
– what bearing, if any, the criminal offense(s) will have on the employee’s ability to perform one or more of – those responsibilities or duties
– the amount of time since the offense(s)
– the person’s age at the time of the offense(s)
– the gravity of the offense(s)
–  any information regarding the job applicant’s rehabilitation and subsequent behavior
– the reasonable interest of the employer in protecting property, specific persons, and the public

CAN A JOB APPLICANT BE REJECTED FOR A PRIOR CONVICTION?

Yes, in New York City, a job applicant can be rejected for a prior conviction, but only when there is a “direct relationship” between the criminal conviction and the employment being sought, or if hiring the applicant would create an “unreasonable risk” to property, specific persons, or the public at large.

If, after conducting the Article 23-A analysis, an employer cannot ascertain that the “direct relationship” exception or the “unreasonable risk” exception applies, the employer cannot legally withdraw the offer of employment.

However, if a New York City employer establishes that one or both of the exceptions is applicable, and if the employer chooses to withdraw the conditional job offer, the Fair Chance Process comes into play.

The employer must provide, in writing, transcripts of all information collected, including a written summary of oral information, to the applicant.

Furthermore, the employer must offer the applicant a written copy of the Article 23-A analysis, inform the applicant that he or she has a minimum of three business days to respond to the findings, and must decide if additional information from the applicant changes the Article 23-A analysis.

If, subsequent to all of the provisions described here, an employer ultimately chooses to revoke a conditional offer of employment, the employer must inform the job seeker in writing. Precisely which jobs are covered by the Fair Chance Act?

It applies to all private and public employers in New York City with at least four employees. However, the law does provide exemptions for jobs in law enforcement, jobs working with children, and any job where existing law keeps someone with a particular conviction from being hired.

The Fair Chance Act benefits thousands of New Yorkers who need work, connects employers with hard workers, and reduces recidivism in New York City.

Of course, looking for work can be a lot easier if you have no criminal record and nothing you feel you should hide.

If you’re accused of any felony or misdemeanor in Westchester County, New York City, or any adjacent jurisdiction, fight the charge aggressively, protect your rights, and obtain the legal help you need by contacting an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney.

FAQs About Probation in Westchester County

Posted on: July 22, 2017 by in Criminal Defense
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In the state of New York, probation is one of the sentencing options available to judges in certain criminal cases.

A sentence of probation may be imposed as an alternative to a prison term.

In the state of New York, probation is supervised by each county’s probation department, although in New York City, the probation department is operated by the city government.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about probation in New York.

However, the answers to these questions can only be general answers about probation, because the details of every case will be different.

If you are accused of a crime in Yonkers, Peekskill, or anywhere in the state of New York, an experienced Westchester County criminal defense lawyer can explain how probation works in this state and address all of your other legal questions and concerns.

Q: How does probation work in Westchester County?

A: In Westchester County and throughout the state of New York, if you are convicted of certain crimes, before you can be sentenced to probation, you will be asked to agree to and sign a “Conditions of Probation” form.

If you receive a criminal sentence in Westchester County that includes probation, you must fully obey all of the terms and conditions of the probation, or you may face a violation of probation or “VOP” charge and the possibility of time behind bars.

Those terms and conditions of probation usually include finding and keeping a job or attending school, routinely reporting to a probation officer, avoiding any criminal acquaintances, and being the target of unwarranted searches and random drug tests.

The state takes probation quite seriously, and since probationers have already been convicted of a crime, violations of probation are penalized with no leniency in Westchester County and through the state of New York.

Q. What are the differences between parole and probation?

A. When someone is found guilty of certain criminal charges in New York, probation is one of the penalties that may be imposed.

Probation allows a convicted offender to stay in his or her community under terms specified by the court and requiring the supervision of a probation officer.

Parole is early release from state custody, and it must be approved by a parole board.

A parolee serves what remains of his or her sentence back in his or her community and under a parole officer’s supervision.

Q. Isn’t probation just a way the system coddles criminals?

A. Not at all. Adults and juveniles who are placed on probation are closely supervised. They must adhere to the law and work or attend school.

Probationers must report routinely to a probation officer, and probation officers may visit their homes. Probation frequently includes restitution and/or community service.

Probationers with a history of drug or alcohol issues, sexual abuse, and psychiatric or psychological problems are required to seek treatment.

Q. What kinds of crimes are typically penalized with probation?

A. Defendants convicted of the following crimes are frequently sentenced to probation: theft, fraud, burglary, larceny, and robbery; driving while intoxicated (DWI); drug possession and drug sales; simple assault; criminal mischief; illegal possession of firearms; endangering the welfare of a child; and repeatedly driving without a license.

In family courts in New York, adults may be sentenced to probation for committing an act of domestic violence.

Q. Can sex offenders be placed on probation?

A. Yes. In fact, a majority of convicted sex offenders in Westchester County are ordered to serve a term of probation.

The Department of Probation operates a nationally-recognized sex offender program that closely supervises offenders and offers appropriate treatment.

The Department of Probation supervises convicted juveniles as well as adult sex offenders.

Group therapy and individual therapy are offered, while polygraph examinations, computer forensics, and routine surveillance of offenders are used with probationers to maximize the public’s safety.

Q. Precisely what is “restitution” in New York law?

A. Restitution is reimbursement that a convicted offender pays to crime victims to compensate those victims for the losses, damages, or injuries that result from a crime.

In Westchester County, the probation department collects and disburses restitution funds gathered from probationers in the county.

Q. What happens if someone violates the terms of his or her probation?

A. When a probation officer has a reason to believe that a probationer has violated the conditions of his or her probation, the court is notified, and the probationer may be ordered to appear at a VOP (violation of probation) hearing.

It’s important in VOP cases for a probationer/defendant to be represented by an experienced Westchester County criminal defense lawyer.

In some cases, a good attorney may be able to persuade the judge that no violation of probation took place.

If the court determines that a probationer is guilty of a violation of probation, the court:

– may continue the probation under the same terms and conditions
– may add additional terms and conditions to the probation
– may order the probationer to jail or prison

Q: Can a probationer request an early release from probation?

A: In New York, anyone who is serving probation may ask the court for an early discharge. When a probationer meets certain requirements, the Department of Probation may request an early discharge on his or her behalf.

Only the court, however, has the authority to approve an early discharge from probation. Probationers should discuss early release with their probation officers and attorneys.

Q: What if I need to travel outside of New York for a family emergency?

A: Probationers who are in good standing may be approved to travel inside the United States for family emergencies.

The probationer must seek prior authorization for the trip if time allows, and he or she must provide the probation officer with complete details and verification about any out-of-state travel.

Q: What happens if someone who is serving probation is charged with another crime?

A: While someone is a probationer in New York, if that person is arrested again for any reason, that person must contact his or her probation officer at once and explain what has happened.

Anyone placed under arrest for any criminal charge should also contact an experienced Westchester County criminal defense lawyer immediately.

If you have been convicted of a crime in New York, and if you have received probation instead of going to jail or prison, take advantage of the chance that you are being offered.

If you will continue to follow the terms and conditions of your probation as established by the court, you’ll be able to avoid you the harsher penalties that might have been imposed.

Anyone sentenced to probation must avoid criminal activity in the future, because the courts are seldom lenient a second time to the same offender.

NYC Makes Some Minor Offenses Fines, Not Crimes

Posted on: June 23, 2017 by in Criminal Defense
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In June, officials in New York City announced a number of new rules for dealing with minor offenses like drinking in public and urinating in public.

For the most part, these charges and comparable minor offenses in New York City – like spitting on the sidewalk or entering a closed public park at night – will now be treated as civil matters rather than criminal matters.

Instead of going before a criminal judge in a courtroom setting, accused offenders will attend an “administrative” hearing or make a “court appearance” by telephone.

Convictions for minor offenses will now be punished with fines and community service rather than jail and probation.

It’s a change that civil rights and social justice activists have advocated for many years in New York City.

Supporters of the new measure say it will divert 100,000 cases a year from an overcrowded criminal justice system, and it will keep thousands from acquiring a criminal record.

Nevertheless, there are a number of exceptions to the new rules.

Those who are on probation or parole will still receive a criminal citation rather than a civil citation.

So will individuals with two felony arrests in the previous two years.

Police officers also will not give a new civil summons to anyone who has “three or more unanswered civil summonses” in the previous eight years.

Donna Lieberman, the head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, says that her group will be monitoring police behavior to ensure that officers are in compliance with the new rules and regulations. “The proof will be in the data,” she told the New York Times.

WHY ARE CHANGES BEING MADE NOW?

The changes are the result of New York City’s Criminal Justice Act, a set of new laws the city approved and the mayor signed last year that have gone into effect this year.

New York is a city known around the world for pioneering tough enforcement against low-level crimes, often referred to as “broken-windows policing” that focused on minor offenses as a method to deter more serious crimes.

However, the Criminal Justice Reform Act obligated the NYPD to establish the new rules and policies.

Critics of the new NYPD rules and policies – apparently including police officers who spoke to the New York Post on condition of anonymity – say the changes undermine the older policy. “It’s just going to make crime go up again,” is what one law enforcement officer reportedly told the Post.

However, Inspector Thomas Taffe of the police commissioner’s office disagrees. He told the New York Times that the new NYPD guidelines are consistent with “broken-windows policing,” and he is confident that the new rules will not result in a higher crime rate.

“The whole issue is that we don’t ignore the problem. I don’t believe it’s going to affect crime in any way,” Inspector Taffe said.

HOW WILL THE NEW RULES AFFECT IMMIGRANTS IN NEW YORK CITY?

The changes will also prevent some of the immigrants in New York City from being targeted for deportation, officials said.

Under an executive order issued by the Trump Administration in January, some immigrants can be deported after a criminal arrest, even if there’s been no conviction.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was a vocal critic of immigration policies under President Obama as well, and the city has frequently refused to cooperate with federal deportation efforts.

Sarah Solon, a deputy director for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, told Reuters, “In the civil system, there is no chance of immigration consequences.”

The Legal Aid Society and the New York Civil Liberties Union contended that the New York Police Department’s concentration on trivial offenses was needlessly exposing New York’s immigrant population to a risk for deportation.

Approximately 18,000 people were detained or issued criminal summonses for public urination in 2016, and approximately 90,000 people were detained or issued criminal summonses for drinking alcohol in public. The city does not keep track of how many of those people were immigrants.

However, the city does estimate that about 100,000 people a year will be diverted from the criminal courts and moved into a process that will be conducted by the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

Tina Luongo, the attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice at the Legal Aid Society, told the New York Times that the changes are “a good step forward,” but she added that many Legal Aid clients already have criminal records that make them ineligible for a civil summons.

WHAT WILL THESE CHANGES MEAN FOR THE AVERAGE PERSON?

What does the new policy mean for the average New Yorker? It means that you won’t be jailed for more than a day for a crime like public spitting, littering, urinating, committing a noise violation, public drinking, or breaking park rules.

Instead, NYPD officers will issue a civil summons and you will be assigned a court date. In 2015, only 21 percent of those who received a criminal summons for a minor offense in the city were found guilty, but 40 to 50 percent missed their court date, and that generated arrest warrants.

Currently, if you miss your court date for a minor violation, the city might go after your finances, but no arrest warrant will be issued. Individuals convicted of minor civil offenses will have the option of community service rather than paying a fine, and none of it will appear on your criminal record.

The New York City police and courts will be able to keep their focus on more serious crimes and more dangerous criminals.

If you’re charged with any crime in the state of New York, it’s important to discuss your case as quickly as possible with an experienced Westchester County criminal defense lawyer.

If you are arrested, after you have identified yourself and presented identification, you don’t have to answer any questions from the police, and you shouldn’t. Politely exercise your right to remain silent – simply say, “I would prefer to exercise my right to remain silent.”

Don’t try to act as your own attorney, either, but politely insist on having your lawyer present for any questioning. Don’t plead guilty, and do not sign or consent to any agreement or plea bargain before consulting an attorney.

You cannot be convicted of a crime unless a prosecutor can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but an experienced Westchester County criminal defense lawyer can provide the legal help you need and fight on your behalf for justice.

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