Friday, June 05, 2009

Failure to Move Against Search Warrant Not Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In People v. Rockel Francis, the defendant was charged with the A-II felony Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree. The government's whole case, of course, was the drugs in Mr. Francis' possession. On appeal, the defendant argued that his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to challenge the search warrant permitting a search of his residence. The Fourth Department concluded that the search warrant described an ongoing drug operation, thus establishing the validity of the warrant. The court stated:
"There can be no denial of effective assistance of . . . counsel arising from [defense] counsel's failure to make a motion or argument that has little or no chance of success (People v Caban, 5 NY3d 143, 152, quoting People v Stultz, 2 NY3d 277, 287, rearg denied 3 NY3d 702)".
The opinion does not state three facts critical to the determination of whether a suppression motion would have been successful. What is present and undisputed in the defedant and government briefs to the court, is that the "ongoing drug operation" (a) was only known to be 17 days old, (b) the confidential informant (himself charged with cocaine possession and facing up to 25 years in jail) had only successfully bought cocaine from the location once, and (c) the day before the warrant was signed, the alleged dealer had told the informant that he did not have any cocaine and was therefore unable to complete a sale.