NYCA reverses weapon-possession convictions for two CAL clients


Mr. C was stopped by the police as he exited his car parked outside his mother’s home in the Bronx. He was immediately handcuffed and questioned by law enforcement in his mother’s driveway. The lower court found, and the First Department agreed, that Mr. C’s statements to the police, made while handcuffed, were lawfully obtained even though he was never provided his Miranda warnings. The Court of Appeals reversed. It found that there were “very few circumstances where a handcuffed person is not in custody … given the obvious physical constraint and association with formal arrest,” and that Miranda warnings were therefore required. As a result, the statements were unlawfully obtained from Mr. C, and his weapon-possession conviction reversed. CAL attorney Barbara Zolot represented Mr. C on appeal.

Mr. D was stopped while driving a friend’s car with an expired registration in the Bronx. During the stop, officers searched Mr. D’s car and recovered a handgun. Defense counsel in his opening statement told the jury that Mr. D was bringing the gun to the precinct to surrender it pursuant to a gun buyback program, and Mr. D testified that he had researched gun buyback programs and believed the NYPD program would let him turn in the gun for cash. But defense counsel did not request a voluntary-surrender instruction, which would have been authorized under the law. Instead, counsel asked for a temporary and lawful possession instruction, which the trial court correctly found was unwarranted because Mr. D had not possessed the weapon “only long enough to dispose of it safely.” The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that counsel’s failure to ask for the correct instruction deprived Mr. D of his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel. CAL attorney Matt Bova represented Mr. D on appeal.