Thursday, April 27, 2006

AD4: Leftovers (March, 2006 term)

New decisions tomorrow, so it is time to clean up the last few cases of significance handed down by the Fourth Department last term.

People v Long, __ AD3d __ [available here]

During a traffic stop, the stopping officer "placed defendant in the back of the patrol car" and then "asked him whether there was anything in the vehicle he should know about" prior to giving Miranda warnings. (Long, __ AD3d at __.) Clearly not familiar with the "anything you say will be used against you" part of Miranda, defendant told the officer there was a gun in the car. (Id. at __.) The trial court suppressed the un-Mirandized statement, and the Fourth Department affirmed, holding:

Contrary to the contention of the People, the record supports Supreme Court's determination that defendant was in police custody when the officer asked defendant the question concerning the contents of his vehicle. 'In deciding whether a defendant was in custody at the time a statement was given, the test is not what the subjective beliefs of the defendant were, but instead what a reasonable person, innocent of any crime, would have thought if they were in defendant's position.' The officer testified that defendant was placed in the back of the patrol car, albeit without handcuffs, and could not exit the patrol car. He further testified that defendant was not free to leave and that a traffic stop for the purpose of issuing a citation is 'technically an arrest.' We thus conclude that the court properly suppressed defendant's initial statement to the officer concerning the gun in the driver's door on the ground that defendant was in custody when he made the statement and had neither received nor waived his Miranda rights, and we further conclude that the court properly suppressed defendant's subsequent statements as the direct consequence of that initial statement.

(Id. at __.)

Just a friendly reminder--you get no bonus points with the police by telling them where the contraband is hidden.

People v Boyd, __ AD3d __ [available here]

In this decision, AD4 holds "that County Court erred in admitting evidence that dynamite was found in the trunk of defendant's vehicle. The potential for prejudice with respect to that evidence greatly outweighed any probative value." (Boyd, __ AD3d at __.) Fine so far, but then the Court goes on to dismiss the error as harmless. (Boyd, __ AD3d at __.) So the evidence wrongly admitted below was unbelievably prejudicial . . . but could not have had an effect on the jury's verdict? Even accounting for different legal standards (probative/prejudicial balancing for admission of the evidence versus whether the error had an effect on the verdict), this seems inconsistent.

People v Hibbard, __ AD3d __ [available here]

At sentencing, the lower court "stated on the record that it was increasing defendant's sentence based upon political remarks made by defendant." (Hibbard, __ AD3d at __.) Sadly, the decision does not set forth the substance of the remarks. The Fourth Department exercised its interest of justice jurisdiction to reach the issue and vacate the sentence, noting that "a 'sentence based to any degree on activity or beliefs protected by the first amendment is constitutionally invalid'." (Id. at __, citing US v Lemon, 723 F2d 922, 938.)