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Brooklyn police discipline defense attorneyNew York, along with 22 other states, prohibits the release of police officers’ personnel and disciplinary records to the general public and the media, even when requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. New York state law NYCL CVR Section 50-a allows the release of these records only to the oversight agencies responsible for police disciplinary actions

By blocking public disclosure of these records, Section 50-a protects police officers from retaliation by criminals and prevents defense attorneys from using a police officer’s disciplinary record to discredit their testimony in a criminal trial. This law also protects police officers from being publicly vilified on the basis of unverified or unsubstantiated accusations.

Some Civil Rights Advocates Call for Repeal of Section 50-a 

Some civil rights advocates argue that the state legislature needs to change or repeal Section 50-a to allow for more transparency into the police disciplinary process. Opponents of 50-a claim that it allows the NYPD to conceal serious offenses by members of the police force, such as sexual misconduct, lying on reports and in court testimony, and use of excessive force. 

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Queens criminal defense attorney police body cam evidenceIn response to constitutional rights violations committed by officers of the New York City Police Department, a U.S. federal court directed the NYPD to implement a body-worn camera program. As of March 2019, 20,000 uniformed patrol officers now wear body cameras. Civil rights activists have hailed body cams as a valuable tool for holding police officers accountable for their actions on the street and reducing incidents in which citizens claim the police used excessive force. The NYPD expects body cams to “encourage lawful and respectful interactions between the public and the police.”

NYPD Rules for Body Camera Recordings

NYPD regulations for body cam recordings include:

  • Officers must record all responses to a crime in progress, interactions with criminal suspects and emotionally disturbed people, searches, arrests, and uses of force. 
  • Specific situations not to be recorded include strip searches, interviewing of sex crime victims, and conversations with confidential informants. 
  • Officers do not need anyone’s permission to record public interactions. However, officers have been directed to inform you when you are being recorded. When a person asks whether they are being recorded, the officer must answer honestly unless doing so “would compromise the safety of any person or impede an investigation.”
  • The NYPD will keep all recordings for at least 18 months.
  • Recordings related to a criminal case will be turned over to the prosecuting attorney’s office, who must provide the video to the defendant’s attorney along with other evidence as required by criminal discovery laws.
  • Recordings may also be requested by the public through the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Police officers may always view footage of an incident before making any official statement.

A February 2019 ruling by a New York state appeals court has ensured that the public will have access to police body cam recordings. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association challenged the release of body cam video to the public, arguing that it would violate a New York State privacy law, NYCL CVR section 50-a, that prevents the public release of any police officer’s personnel records except by court order. The court ruled that these recordings do not constitute a personnel record and that they must be released in order to achieve the “transparency, accountability, and public trust-building” objectives of the body-worn camera program.

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NYC criminal defense lawyer prosecutor misconductEveryone has heard about the repercussions of police misconduct, but much less has been done about the problem of misconduct by prosecuting attorneys. When New York police commit a constitutional rights violation, such as unlawful arrest or excessive use of force, the victim can win a large financial settlement in civil court, and the offending police officers can face criminal prosecution for civil rights violations as well as job termination. But what happens when a New York assistant district attorney (ADA) violates someone’s civil rights? The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors, including both the individual and their employer, cannot be sued for civil rights violations except in very rare instances. 

Prosecutors Who Commit Illegal Acts Go Largely Unpunished

The New York Times recently described a particularly egregious case of prosecutorial misconduct in which a Suffolk County ADA altered police records to remove exculpatory information on a young man who was being prosecuted for first-degree murder. When this misconduct was discovered, the ADA was fired, and that murder case was dismissed along with five other homicide cases in which the ADA concealed evidence that favored the accused. Was that ADA or his office sued by the victims who were unjustly prosecuted and imprisoned? Was he indicted on criminal charges or at least barred from practicing law? No. He is now a criminal defense lawyer, and his website actually highlights his former employment as a homicide prosecutor.

New York Creates Prosecutorial Misconduct Commission

At present, the powers of New York prosecutors are “virtually unchecked,” according to a New York City Council Member. “The [district attorney] alone decides who to charge and for what … which information to share with the grand jury and which to withhold … who sits [in jail] awaiting trial… and when, if ever, the defense gets access to information critical to the case.”

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Queens criminal defense attorney bail reform“Innocent until proven guilty” can feel like a sham when thousands of accused-but-unconvicted defendants languish in New York jails for lack of a few hundred dollars to make bail. Shockingly, 72% of people arrested in New York City end up at Rikers Island for at least a day because they cannot raise the necessary cash bail fast enough, even for a misdemeanor crime such as drug possession or assault

The state of New York appears ready to address this injustice in 2019. A task force created by the New York State Unified Court System spent over a year discussing the issue and published its final report in February 2019. This report largely agrees with the latest drafts of bail reform legislation coming out of Albany. The likely changes include:

  • More offenses should be designated for police issuance of an appearance ticket rather than an arrest.
  • People accused of misdemeanor and some non-violent felony crimes should be released without cash bail, either on their own recognizance or with the least restrictive non-monetary conditions necessary to ensure their appearance in court. 
  • However, courts should be able to deny release if the defendant currently poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an identifiable person or group.
  • State law should specify a limited list of crimes for which a defendant may be held in pre-trial custody, if the prosecutor makes a case for it.
  • Judges’ use of electronic monitoring in place of jail detention should be subject to specific guidelines set out in state law.

New York City has already taken action over the past four years to reduce its jail population rather than wait for state-level reform. NYC now offers a program known as “supervised release,” a partnership with nonprofit groups that will help evaluate defendants and allow social workers to maintain contact with assigned defendants. Of the first 10,000 people who qualified for supervised release, 87% attended all of their court dates.

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Bronx wrongful death lawyerWhen a person dies in a tragic accident, their immediate family usually faces significant expenses related to the victim’s post-accident medical care and costs related to their funeral and burial, along with the lifetime loss of the decedent’s income and services. If the fatal accident was another party’s fault, the victim’s next-of-kin can file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation for their financial losses. 

A wrongful death lawsuit is similar to a personal injury lawsuit. When a victim is injured through another party’s fault, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. If the injured person dies, their surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Grounds for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York

You can file a wrongful death lawsuit on the grounds that your family member was killed by:

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Brooklyn civil litigation lawyer judgment collectionIf you have a breach of contract dispute with a customer, business partner, or employer involving a substantial sum of money, you can file a lawsuit against them in New York civil court. After winning your case, you will have a court order called a judgment specifying the total amount the defendant must pay you, which may include interest, legal fees, and court costs on top of your specific financial damages. But how do you actually enforce the judgment and get the defendant to pay you--especially since the defendant’s refusal to pay you was what forced you to file a lawsuit in the first place? New York law provides a number of possible remedies, including garnishment of wages, liens, and seizure of property. These options are defined in the Laws of New York, Civil Practice Law and Rules, Article 52 - Enforcement of Money Judgments.

Finding the Debtor’s Assets

The first challenge is to determine what income and assets the debtor has that can be used to satisfy the judgment. Your attorney can ask the court for an information subpoena to be served on the debtor, their employer, their bank, or any other person or business that may have information on the debtor’s income and assets. The information subpoena is a court order that must be answered. 

Once you have the debtor’s financial information, you will need to hire an enforcement officer, either a county deputy sheriff or an independent marshal, to execute any of these procedures.

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NYC breach of contract lawyer

Contracts are a part of daily life, governing everything from our auto insurance to agreements with home improvement contractors. If you run a business, you have contracts with your suppliers as well as your customers and even your business partners. Most of the time, everything goes according to plan: one party delivers the expected goods or services and the other party pays on time. But when the other party to a contract fails to live up to their obligations, and you suffer a significant financial loss as a result, you may have to sue them for breach of contract to get what you rightfully deserve.

Breach of Contract in New York

In order to sue someone for breach of contract, you must be able to show the other party committed a material breach of the contract terms and that you suffered a monetary loss as a result. A material breach is a substantial failure to perform as agreed, one that significantly defeats the purpose of the original agreement. 

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New York City employment law attorney labor unionsIf you are a government employee covered by a union collective-bargaining agreement, such as a police officer or school teacher, you cannot be forced by law to join a union and pay union dues. Until recently, however, non-members could be required by New York state law, and by similar laws in 21 other states, to pay a significant percentage of the annual union dues in the form of “agency fees.” The reasoning was that non-members benefited from the union’s collective bargaining efforts and should contribute toward those costs.

The legality of mandatory agency fees was challenged in federal court in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. Mark Janus is an employee of the state of Illinois who chose not to join the AFSCME because he opposes many of the union’s political positions. Nonetheless, he had been required to pay $535 per year to the union as an agency fee, which is about 78 percent of the annual dues paid by union members.  

Agency Fees Deprive Employees of the Right to Free Speech

In its June 2018 decision on the Janus case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require non-union members to pay agency fees. The Court held that the union’s collective bargaining activities and political speech are inextricably linked. Thus, agency fees violate an individual’s First Amendment right to free speech by “compelling them to subsidize [the union’s] private speech on matters of substantial public concern” including “education, child welfare, healthcare, and minority rights.” 

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Bronx civil rights lawyerIf you have suffered a constitutional rights violation at the hands of the police or any other branch of city or county government in New York, you may be eligible to file a claim for damages in federal court. The U.S. Constitution guarantees certain rights to each person, including:

  • The First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression.
  • The Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
  • The Fourteenth Amendment protections that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ” nor “deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Filing a Section 1983 Claim Against a Local Government Entity 

Federal law 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides that both a municipal government employee and the employing government body can be held liable for damages when said employee violates your constitutional rights while acting “under color of law” and in keeping with the “custom, practice, or policy” of the employer. You can make a claim for:

  • Compensatory damages to compensate you for actual financial losses incurred.  
  • Punitive damages to punish egregious wrongdoing and deter similar wrongful acts in the future.
  • Injunctive relief, which requires the defendant to take or refrain from certain actions.
  • Payment of attorney fees if you win your case.

If you believe your rights have been violated, it is critical to speak with an attorney very quickly. Although you will be filing a lawsuit in federal court, the statute of limitations for Section 1983 claims is set by each state. In New York, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the incident in which your rights were violated. However, if you plan to bring a claim against any city agency, you must notify the city of your claim within 90 days of the incident.

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Queens civil rights violation litigation lawyerThe use of physical force to control other people is part of the daily life of New York City police and corrections officers. They must break up fights, restrain arrestees, and handle people who are drunk, drugged, or violently resistant. In some cases, an officer must use extreme force, and the person being restrained may suffer serious injury. Such cases may result in a civil lawsuit arising from the claim that the police officer committed a federal civil rights violation by using excessive force.

However, the mere fact that an injury occurred is not, in itself, proof that an officer used excessive force. The difference between reasonable force and excessive force depends on the totality of the circumstances at the scene.

Consequences for Federal Civil Rights Violations

When a law enforcement or corrections officer is accused of using excessive force, the officer can face multiple consequences including:

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Brooklyn assault charge defense attorneyIf you have been arrested on assault charges in New York City, you could be facing either a misdemeanor conviction for Third Degree Assault or a felony conviction for First or Second Degree Assault (NYPL 120.00 to 120.10). With the help of a good defense lawyer and some creative thinking, however, you may be able to beat these charges.

Here are five possible defense strategies to discuss with your criminal defense attorney:

  1. Lack of physical injury. If you can show that the victim exaggerated the effect of the assault and suffered no injury all, you may be able to have the charges dismissed. 
  2. Lack of serious physical injury. If you can show that the victim suffered only the most minor of injuries, your attorney may be able to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. A felony charge requires serious physical injury or, in the alternative, some kind of special circumstance, such as the use of a dangerous weapon. “Serious physical injury” means protracted impairment of health or of any bodily organ, or serious protracted disfigurement, or an injury that creates a substantial risk of death (NY Penal Law 10.00). 
  3. Lack of intent. For a felony assault charge to stick, you must have had intent to cause injury to the victim. If you can show that you did not have that intent, and this can be demonstrated through the corroboration of witnesses, you may be able to avoid a conviction. For misdemeanor assault, you must have caused injury by intent, recklessness, or criminal negligence. Again, if you can convincingly describe the encounter as accidental or unintentional, you may be able to avoid being convicted.
  4. Inaccurate identification. When a fight breaks out in a crowd, and multiple people are throwing punches, a victim may incorrectly identify the person who actually hit them. Your attorney may be able to find witnesses or video recordings that prove that someone else was the person who actually injured the victim.
  5. Lying victim. Completely false accusations are not unheard of. For example, one spouse might try to get the upper hand in a bitter divorce dispute by claiming that they or their children were assaulted by the other spouse. In one case which our attorneys successfully defended, the person making accusations of assault said he was attacked by the defendant, but the defendant claimed self-defense. Security video recordings proved that the man claiming to be the victim had actually been lying in wait to ambush the defendant. 

As you can see, there are a variety of ways to construct a defense when you have been charged with assault. A savvy criminal defense attorney will carefully examine the evidence in your case and recommend the best approach for your unique circumstances.

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Manhattan criminal defense attorney assaultIn response to numerous assaults committed with ceramic blades by inmates at Rikers Island, local correctional facilities in the state of New York may again use low-dose ionizing radiation body scanners to search inmates for weapons, effective January 30, 2019.

These body scanners, which use the same type of radiation as medical X-ray machines but at lower doses, are able to detect small weapons such as ceramic blades that do not set off metal detectors. Prior to 2015, some New York corrections facilities used X-ray scanners to screen inmates for weapons. The practice was halted in 2015 due to the health risk posed by exposure to radiation.  

After weighing the risk of low-dose radiation exposure against the risk posed by undetected weapons in corrections facilities, New York state legislators decided in favor of allowing X-ray screening of inmates. They were swayed by reports of assaults in which inmates wielding ceramic blades caused severe slashing injuries to other inmates or corrections officers. In New York City alone, over 100 such assaults were reported in 2017, including 11 incidents in which a corrections officer was stabbed, slashed, or cut. 

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Manhattan prescription drug charges lawyerNew Yorkers with leftover prescription drugs will now have safer options for discarding them, thanks to the state’s new Drug Take Back Act that went into effect on January 6, 2019. Lawmakers hope that one effect of this law will be to curtail drug possession crimes involving unlawful possession of prescription narcotics (e.g., oxycodone and fentanyl) or other prescription drugs that are commonly resold and misused (e.g., ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Adderall).

The Problems Created by Leftover Prescription Drugs

When someone is prescribed a powerful medication such as an opioid pain reliever, they are often left with extra pills that they did not need or preferred not to take. In some cases, these pills are flushed down the toilet by someone who does not realize the harm these drugs can do to freshwater supplies and aquatic life. In other cases, these pills find their way into new, unauthorized hands and contribute to the epidemic of opioid addiction and death by overdose that has plagued this nation over the past few years. 

Various efforts were made to deal with this problem on a piecemeal and voluntary basis, such as drug drop-off points at police stations, local “drug take back” days, and collection stations at some hospitals and pharmacies. However, many believe that much more could be and needed to be done. The New York state legislature addressed this problem with the passage of the Drug Take Back Act during its 2017-2018 session, which added Article 2-B sections 290-294 and amended section 3343-b of the Public Health Law.

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Brooklyn DWI defense attorney out of state arrestIt is not uncommon for a New York resident to get arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) while driving in another state. However, most people do not understand the consequences of an out-of-state DWI on their life in New York.

An out-of-state DWI conviction can affect many aspects of your life, including:

  • Your New York driver’s license
  • Your current and future employment, particularly in civil service jobs
  • Professional licensure, if you are a healthcare professional or work in another occupation that requires a state-issued license
  • Your auto insurance rates
  • A criminal record that will appear on background checks

For the purposes of this article, the term DWI includes driving while ability impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. 

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Brooklyn drug court attorneyDrug possession and use crimes remain a major problem for New York City. Some parks in the Bronx are so heavily strewn with used hypodermic needles that the grounds are unsafe for visitors. Heroin addicts can be seen shooting up inside Manhattan subway stations. Overdose deaths due to opioids such as heroin and fentanyl have skyrocketed to an estimated 1,500 per year in New York City.

As prison sentences have failed to stem illegal drug possession, alternative programs such as drug treatment courts have been created. Most of these programs have now been operating in NYC for 10 to 15 years.

How the NYC Drug Treatment Court Program Works

If you have been arrested for a non-violent crime in New York City and you have a substance use disorder (alcoholism or drug addiction), the first thing you should do is seek the advice of an experienced drug court lawyer. Your lawyer can explain your legal options and advise you as to whether a drug court program might be a good option for you.

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Brooklyn criminal lawyer arrest arraignmentIf you are arrested and charged with a crime in New York City, you are probably going to hear a lot of terms that you may not understand, such as court summons, desk appearance ticket, and arraignment. If you are facing a minor offense, such as unlawful possession of marijuana, you will typically get a court summons. If you are arrested for a theft offense, you might get a desk appearance ticket. If you are charged with a violent crime, such as rape or murder, you will face an arraignment. Let us explain each of these terms in more depth:

Criminal Court Summons

If the police catch you in possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana in New York City, you have broken a state law--at least until the state broadly legalizes marijuana. Because this is a minor offense, it is classified as a "violation" of the law, not a misdemeanor crime or a felony crime. For a violation, the police will not arrest you and take you to the police station. Instead, you will be issued a pink ticket--a criminal court summons--charging you with unlawful possession of marijuana. The NYPD will also issue a criminal court summons for a violation such as disorderly conduct, trespassing, or carrying an open container of alcohol.

Here are three things you need to know about a criminal court summons:

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Bronx marijuana possession defense attorneyNew York City arrests for drug crimes involving cannabis will soon be a thing of the past. New York came close to legalizing marijuana use by all adults in 2018 and is expected to complete the process in 2019.

One of the first moves in favor of broadly legalizing adult marijuana use was taken by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance on May 15, 2018. He announced that as of August 1, 2018, his office would no longer prosecute criminal cases where the only charge is minor marijuana possession or public smoking.

In June, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an official statement that New York police would stop arresting and fingerprinting people for the sole offense of smoking marijuana in public. While public marijuana use is a class B misdemeanor crime under New York state law, as of September 1, 2018, offenders would receive a criminal court summons for unlawful possession of marijuana (25g or less). The summons requires a court appearance, but because the charge is only a violation, the maximum penalty is a fine of $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense. In addition, a violation does not leave the offender with a criminal drug conviction on their record.

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NYC criminal defense lawyer police drone surveillanceAt least 910 law enforcement and fire/emergency agencies across the U.S. now use drones, a figure that more than doubled from 2016 to 2018. Among them is the New York Police Department, which announced the formation of a new group specifically to handle drones on December 4, 2018.

The NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) will oversee the new team of 29 specially-trained officers and 14 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). TARU’s primary job is to provide audiovisual surveillance technology and services to the entire NYPD, and their efforts will likely play a large role in many criminal defense cases.

Uses of Drones for Law Enforcement in New York City

The NYPD plans to use their drones for purposes such as:

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NYC domestic violence charges defense attorneyIf you have been charged with a crime of domestic violence, one of your biggest concerns might be, "Will I end up in prison?" If you are incarcerated, you are not earning an income. You cannot care for your children and other family members. You could even lose your home and car if you cannot keep up the payments.

Fortunately, the state of New York has recognized that it has a vested interest in breaking the cycle of domestic violence. It is not enough to help victims of abuse after the fact. Alleged batterers must also be addressed. While everyone must be held accountable for their own actions, when people accused of domestic violence are incarcerated, they are not able to earn their own living, pay taxes, and meet other financial obligations, such as paying child support.

The Option of Interim Probation Supervision in NYC

If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime such as harassment, menacing, stalking, or assault of an intimate partner or family member, incarceration is one of the possible sentences. However, a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate for you to receive interim probation supervision.

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Tuesday has been a huge day in the history of our country and it will certainly be remembered that way. The White House took two seismic hits that could bring down the President of the United States. Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight felonies by a jury of his peers in Virginia, while the President's long-time fixer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight felony offenses, admitting he acted "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office." Make no mistake about it, he was talking about the now-President of the United States. Read More

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