Accused of strangling and slamming the complainant’s head into a radiator during a domestic violence dispute, a recent Crotty Saland PC client faced up to seven years in prison after being arrested for and charged with Second Degree Assault, New York Penal Law 120.05, and Second Degree Strangulation, New York Penal Law 121.12. Quite serious felony crimes in New York, the criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC had their hands full. Our client, who maintained his/her innocence, refuted the objectively serious allegations from the onset of his/her arrest. Hauled into an NYPD precinct, questioned by detectives and both booked and arraigned on these two felonies, the District Attorney’s Office asserted in the felony complaint that not only did our client strangle the complainant until he/she lost consciousness, but our client repeatedly slammed the complainant’s head into a radiator in the neighborhood of fifteen time, gouged at the alleged victim’s eyes and punched him/her in the nose. Not only did the complainant black out twice, but our client also allegedly brandished scissors while threatening to kill his/her domestic partner. Facing a minimum of two years in prison and a maximum of seven years incarcerated if convicted of either PL 120.05 or PL 121.12, the New York domestic violence attorneys at Crotty Saland PC expected the worst at arraignment, but what seemed to be an objectively horrific incident if true, slowly evolved into a case that was far from what it seemed.
The New York DWI and DUI lawyers at Crotty Saland PC are proud to announce the exoneration of a client arrested for drunk driving, aka, Driving While Intoxicated, pursuant to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 1192.3. After “blowing” a .42 on the portable breath test (PBT), our client returned to the NYPD precinct and performed a second breath test where he blew a .6 on the Intoxilyzer. Despite blowing below the legal limit for a DWI pursuant to the per se VTL 1192.2, both the NYPD and prosecutors charged our client with the misdemeanor “common law” DUI crime of VTL 1192.3.
Although some New York DWI and DUI lawyers might argue the “fix is in” when it comes to defending a client in a DWI Chemical Test Refusal Hearing at the NY DMV with an Administrative Law Judge, simply that is not the case. While the standard in these hearings are lower than the parallel proceedings in criminal court where a VTL 1192.3 arrest is prosecuted, the lower burden of proof is not the equivalent to an insurmountable challenge. Case (or cases) in point, both Elizabeth Crotty and Jeremy Saland secured dismissals after the NYPD Officers did not provide sufficient evidence at the respective DWI Refusal Hearings. Because of Crotty Saland PC’s efforts, cross-examination of the police officers and convincing of the judges, these clients avoided a year long revocation of their license to drive in the State of New York. Obviously, the alternative resolution would have been horrific for our clients.
Before briefly discussing these specific Refusal Hearings, any time a person is arrested for and charged with a Common Law DWI pursuant to New York VTL 1192.3, the arresting police officer or member of the police department must first ask that accused to provide a breath sample. If he or she refuses, the officer in clear and unequivocal language must also advise the driver that failure to submit to a chemical test would result in an immediate suspension and ultimate revocation of his or her license to drive. Not only can this refusal be used against the driver at a later criminal hearing or trial, but even if a criminal case is later beaten, dismissed or the accused is exonerated, the finding and punishment by the Administrative Law Judge would stand. In addition to the issues addressed above, the Administrative Law Judge must also find that the defendant was arrested with probable cause and he or she was in fact operating the motor vehicle.
Whether you are at the Electric Zoo Festival on New York’s Randall Island, rolling with Phish at Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, or you are merely out and about in New York City, Westchester County, Rockland County, or anywhere in the State, if you possess or sell MDMA, Molly or Ecstasy you potentially face an arrest for either a misdemeanor or felony crime. As your criminal lawyer will explain, mere possession of Ecstasy, even one pill, violates New York Penal Law 220.03, Seventh Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. Depending on the quantity in your possession and whether you have the subjective intent to sell the Ecstasy, you could also face felony crimes including Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, New York Penal Law 220.16. Complicating matters, when you actually sell Molly, MDMA or Ecstasy in New York, the crime you face is by default a felony. Assuming the weight of the controlled substance is less than one gram, meaning just one pill, then you would be charged with New York Penal Law 220.31, Fifth Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance. If the weight of the Ecstasy, MDMA or Molly exceeds one gram, then the applicable arrest charge is New York Penal Law 220.39 assuming this sale did not occur on school grounds. This crime is Third Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance. When the weights exceed those here and as outlined in the New York Penal Law, the criminal offenses for criminal possession or sale are significantly more serious.
Because of the above exposure, any arrest, whether by Desk Appearance Ticket or felony complaint, requires immediate and professional attention. Sometimes, investigation and advocacy from the onset of an arrest can provide tremendous benefits as the matter makes its way through the criminal justice system. Fortunately for three recent clients of Crotty Saland PC, despite their arrests for selling Molly to undercover police officers at the Electric Zoo, they took immediate action to retain a criminal lawyer and fight their respective arrests for PL 220.31 head on as they worked their way towards an ultimate dismissal on the merits.
Its very easy to assume the worst about people. Its equally easy to stand in judgement of someone you do not know. After all, if they have done something wrong they are guilty and should be punished accordingly. However, that is not the reality of the world. There is a sea of grey between the two islands of black and white. There are human factors, life experiences and even mental health issues that impact how we conduct ourselves. Sometimes, even the good do bad. It could be you. Your sibling. Your child.
People often ask how as a former prosecutor I can now defend people who committed crimes or are guilty of criminal conduct. While I do have the advantage of representing whomever I choose and sending a client to seek a criminal lawyer elsewhere, there are few things in life that are so black and white. Simply, even good, honest and kind people make mistakes that are criminal. Otherwise hardworking people make poor decisions at a moment in their lives that are clearly wrong, but not indicative of the person they are or can become. For that matter, and arguably of greatest import, a criminal defense attorney should not be the first person to tell you that an accusation is nothing more than an accusation. Whether exaggerated or simply untrue, history proves that we all have a presumption of innocence for a reason that prosecutors must overcome by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Fortunately for an army veteran who served our country in combat overseas, Crotty Saland PC poked enough holes and mitigated enough alleged conduct to knock down an arrest for Third Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.35, to a Disorderly Conduct non-criminal violation.
Not every criminal lawyer in New York is an Extortion lawyer or Blackmail attorney. You can be well versed in the New York Penal Law, but not be familiar or have experience with the numerous subsections and theories of a Grand Larceny Extortion case. Fortunately for a Crotty Saland PC client, knowledge, experience and advocacy paid off in what on its face appeared to be a clear-cut violation of New York Penal Law 155.30(6) and other crimes.
After a night of consuming alcohol, our client was alleged to have demanded thousands of dollar from a fellow reveler encountered the night before. More than a mere inconsequential meeting, our client woke in the bed of this man having no recollection of coming home with him. Upon learning that the two had intercourse, our client became extremely alarmed and insisted any sex was without consent. While it was likely indisputable that our client lacked the ability to consent, our client allegedly made a grave mistake and demanded multiple thousands of dollars from the man or our client would report the crime to the NYPD. Ultimately cutting our client a check, our client left and only reported the incident after the check did not clear. At the same time, the man filed a complaint for Extortion.
Despite having top training and experience in what is the most stressful of life situations and the respect of his friends, neighbors and nation as a veteran of the armed forces, nothing prepared a recent Crotty Saland PC client for the overwhelming fear and concern that resulted from an arrest at New York’s JFK Airport after he tried to check a lawfully owned firearm. Yes, our client followed the TSA’s guidelines prior to arriving at the airport to fly to Colorado where a new job awaited the following morning. Yes, our client made sure the firearm was stored away in a hard sided and locked cases consistent with the airline’s regulations. No, he was not remotely prepared for what would happen next.
A criminal and violent person our client was not, but instead a regular person, no different than you or me, exercising what he believed was his Second Amendment rights to possess a firearm licensed in another state. Unfortunately, despite his far from nefarious intentions, an arrest by the Port Authority Police Department and prosecution by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office was the last thing our client expected when his biggest concern to date on a flight was whether he should book an isle or window seat or have pretzels or chips with his Coke. Not a commentary on the state of firearm laws, the NRA, or Congress’ plan to allow conceal carry permits to cross state lines, this blog entry addresses how good people can unintentionally run afoul of the law and the efforts necessary to protect their good name, liberty and future.
Advocating effectively is not as easy as it seems. Understanding the criminal justice system in a practical sense takes experience. Doing your homework on your client’s criminal case to put him or her in the best position to resolve that case favorably takes diligence. The end result, however, can be well worth all the work for both the accused and the criminal defense attorney who secured justice. In fact, for a few recent Crotty Saland PC clients, what were originally nightmarish experiences ended in closed cases, non-criminal dispositions and outright dismissals.
Many people believe that if you need a top criminal defense attorney, or any for that matter, you are clearly guilty of something. Whether that belief is misguided is fairly irrelevant, of course, until it is you who needs a criminal defense lawyer. That said, there are very few things in life as debilitating and emotionally destructive as being accused of a crime you did not commit. Maybe you did something morally wrong or maybe you did nothing improper at all, but law enforcement, such as the NYPD and the District Attorney, or a complainant incorrectly interpreted your acts or intent. Yes, where there is smoke there is often fire, but life teaches us that this is by no means a given truth.
You, the accused, have rights and the prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Their failure or inability to do so means your case should be dismissed. For a recent Crotty Saland PC client employed in the banking and financial sector, a dismissal of all charges, including felony Third Degree Grand Larceny, is just how the criminal case ended not merely because our client was innocent, but due to advocacy of those same criminal defense attorneys many of us believe only represent the guilty.