In the State of New York and the five boroughs including Rockland County, Westchester County and Nassau County, the judge expects the person to be represented by an attorney, with the worth of that attorney subject to due diligence by the client. The person needs to find an attorney who is fully versed in New York criminal law, and they will have to consider the charges, the client’s background, and how the attorney can educate the client and who understands the person’s background and the facts of the case well enough to be an effective advocate for the person. Hiring an attorney is worth it, but finding the right attorney is on that person.
It is a common saying that a person who defends himself has a fool for a client, because it is very hard for someone to be objective when they are representing themselves. Also, that person probably won’t know the elements needs need to meet, or realize they can remain silent, or even know they have the right to cross-examine the witnesses. They have to determine whether they have the skill to cross-examine witnesses, or get and review the discovery and whether they knew something was missing from the discovery.
There are probably at least a hundred things a civilian would not know, that an attorney would, because the attorney has been to high school, college, three years of law school and practiced New York criminal law for many years. I have been practicing New York criminal law for nearly 30 years and have devoted myself to New York criminal law; I do not do closings or handle real estate or personal injury cases because I have devoted myself to New York criminal law only.
Unless a non-lawyer has devoted themselves the way I have, it would probably a bad idea to represent themselves in a criminal case, for the same reason, if someone needed heart surgery, they probably wouldn’t want someone to do it who had not done it before. They would want someone to do it who had been doing it for a long time and knew how to handle problems as they arose. They would need a clear vision of the path to be taken as the case developed, which is why judges know it’s a horrible idea for someone to represent themselves.
There is nothing wrong with having a public defender, although there is a question of eligibility, and it has to be determined whether or not someone was eligible financially.
Public defenders do good work and depending on who they were working with, it could be just like having any other attorney. However, private lawyers like me can devote themselves to their client’s cases because they have a lighter caseload; they don’t take on as many cases as a public defender. I can also be flexible and meet my clients at different times, even on weekends, and I can devote my expertise to my clients on a broader scale, since I can spend more time and energy to their case.
Defending oneself would probably be the worst of the three options because a person won’t be able to be objective about their own case and it’s hard for people to defend themselves unless they are actually attorneys. I have represented attorneys and have found that they become very good partners in defense because they have good ideas and understand the process, but it would probably be a very bad idea to represent themselves, which is why they hire me to represent them.
Miranda rights are relevant, although they won’t ordinarily lead to the dismissal of a case. The Miranda rights would pertain particularly to someone who was in custody and had made a statement based on questioning or interrogation by a police officer. If the entire case or evidence against the individual was based on a statement they made after an arrest, which is an unusual circumstance, it is certainly possible.
The goal in that case would be to have a hearing in front of a judge, to decide whether or not the statements made should be suppressed or excluded from evidence, since the police had violated the individual’s constitutional rights while they were in custody or under arrest and had not been warned that anything they said could and would be used against them. Miranda only applies to those types of statements, but if the entire case was built on the individual’s statement, and that statement is excluded, that could be key to a finding of ‘not guilty’ verdict by a judge or jury or at least weaken the state’s or prosecutor’s case.
If the person wants to hear a ‘not guilty’ verdict, they will have to go to trial if charged with a crime in the State of New York. At trial, the prosecutor has to try to prove each and every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to do that, they will have to present evidence in the form of witnesses and any appropriate or relevant documents as well as any relevant video, and it’s the obligation of the person’s attorney to be their advocate and cross-examine witnesses, if that could be helpful to the case.
In order to get a “not guilty” verdict, the attorney has to be experienced, and understand the nuances and the facts of the case At some point, the person has to decide if they want to testify in the case, which means they have to have a conversation with their attorney to help them decide, since there are many things to consider.
The bottom line is to find an attorney with whom they could work to help them decide ultimately whether or not to go to trial.
Generally speaking, many of the cases that I have handled over the last nearly 28 years involved searches of individuals. Many of the cases involving possession of marijuana or possession of drugs would certainly involve searches of individuals that were done without a warrant.
A police officer will usually procure a warrant if they wanted to search an apartment, a house or a dwelling where somebody resided, if they believed that there may be criminal activity going on. They will go to the prosecutor or the prosecutor will go to a judge with an affidavit, the judge will review the affidavit, talk to the police officer, swear in the police officer and then sign the warrant.
Most searches that are ordinarily done without a warrant usually happen when a police officer stumbles upon a situation, such as when they see someone is walking down the street with a bulge in their pocket that appeared to be a weapon, like a gun or a knife. The police would stop the person and they would be told to stand in a prone position so that the officer would be able to pat them down, which is usually when the officer would recover a weapon of some sort like a gun or a knife.
A warrantless search could also happen if an individual was walking down the street and the police officer either walked or drove by and saw them smoking what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette. The police officer may stop the person if they either saw it, smelled it or both, and they could arrest that individual, search them and perhaps find some contraband, such as marijuana or something else.
A search without a warrant would not necessarily be illegal, although in order to find that out the person would need to explain the circumstance to an attorney and the attorney would have to review the reports and speak to the prosecutor, to determine whether or not their challenge to the legality of that search would be fruitful and yield a positive result for their client.
If you have questions about New York criminal law, contact dedicated New York criminal defense attorney Carl Spector for a free confidential consultation. He will explain your rights and obligations under New York criminal law and provide you with advice on what steps to take next to best protect your rights.