hotlightOne of the first things that will occur prior to or immediately after an arrest is an attempt by a law enforcement officer to wheedle a statement, admission or confession out of the defendant.  After all, this is the time when the individual is at his most vulnerable and often not thinking clearly – which leads usually to an attempt to try to talk one’s way out of the arrest.  Of course, all the talking in the world will not negate the arrest and instead will further the chances of a conviction due to the statement provided.  Adding to the trauma of an arrest is the fact that law enforcement officers have been known to bend the law when attempting to secure a damaging admission from the prisoner.  In a recent case of mine, the officers did just that while conspiring with the prosecutor to deny my client his counsel of choice.  Even more shocking: the arrested was a detective with the NYPD.  The lesson to be learned here is that no matter how knowledgeable of the criminal justice system a defendant may be, law enforcement will still try to get an admission out of him to cripple a defense and ensure a conviction.  While hiring the best New York criminal defense attorney you can upon arrest is a start, keeping your mouth shut no matter what is dangled before you can be just as important to the ultimate success of your case. Continue reading

If you have been arrested for a domestic violence crime in New York, do not panic.  Despite often carrying very serious penalties with sometimes painful personal and professional ramifications, these charges can be often be defeated through intensive investigation well before the trial stage, due to certain factors specific to these types of cases.  To start, domestic violence itself is not a criminal charge: the crimes usually associated with domestic violence incidents often include Assault, Harassment and Stalking.  The various assault charges contained in the New York Penal Law (NYPL §§ 120.00, 120.05 and 120.10) can rise as high as a B felony and as low as a misdemeanor – the range comes with potential jail time from up to 25 years down to probation.  In this post, I’ll give you some thoughts and ideas on what to do if charged with a domestic violence-related charge in New York.  Continue reading

In a recent blog post, I discussed the topic of ineffective assistance of counsel claims and the opportunity to vacate a conviction due to trial counsel’s representation which falls “below an objective standard of reasonableness” and, “but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result in the proceeding would have been different.”  Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 694 (1984).  This week inside a Manhattan courtroom we will conduct a hearing for a decorated, former NYPD detective who was strongly advised by his attorney to plead guilty to a crime in connection with a bid to house retired horses from the NYPD Mounted Unit.  People v. Depamphilis, Docket No. 2010 NY 019168 (NY Co.). Continue reading

Recently a story hit the national news about a college student who was arrested after falsely accusing two college football players of raping her – but not before the players were kicked off the team, lost their scholarships and withdrew from the school, Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.  Despite a plethora of evidence immediately available to school officials which made clear the “victim” was lying, the university managed to put the players through the school disciplinary system and find in the accuser’s favor.  This case is a perfect example of how important it is for students charged in a school disciplinary action to immediately retain a top school discipline attorney to guide them through the maze of a college disciplinary hearing where the accused has significantly less rights than in a criminal case and where the standard of proof is unfairly low. Continue reading

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the accused the right to effective assistance of counsel. In practice, however, a defendant who wishes to prove that he had incompetent or ineffective counsel at trial does not have an easy road to hoe in convincing the trial judge – or appellate court – to vacate a conviction.  As any of the top New York criminal appeals lawyers know, courts do not routinely grant motions for a new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel as the result puts the defendant back to where he was prior to trial – without a conviction and out of jail.  That being said, if your lawyer works hard enough, a conviction after trial can be opened up due to counsel’s poor lawyering, no matter how bad the case is, no matter how long the sentence is – I know because we’ve done it.  Continue reading

Recently a client charged with serious federal narcotics crimes came to me with a tale of woe: his prior counsel who had been representing him during the investigation phase of the case had incredibly been simultaneously representing a witness who was cooperating against him in the same case.  When my new client was indicted he came to me, terrified, because a) his former lawyer knew all about his criminal background including the client’s culpability in the case for which he had just been indicted; and b) he was not an American citizen despite living in America since he was two years old; therefore, a conviction to any of the narcotics charges against him would result in his deportation back to a country he had not visited since he left as a child.  The client was desperate and without hope: his former lawyer had advised him to either cooperate with the government or, if deported, to attempt to illegally sneak back into America – two choices the client was unwilling to do. Within 15 minutes of meeting this client and hearing his tale of woe, I told him “I know you won’t believe this but what your former lawyer did to you may end up being your only chance out of this mess.”  Eleven months later, despite facing initially a minimum five to 40 years in prison pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) and definite deportation, my client received just a 30 month sentence to a Travel Act charge (a non-deportable offense) and received a recommendation for the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) which could result in his release from prison in just over a year.  Moral to the story: as any of the best New York federal drug and narcotics attorneys know, when given lemons in a case make lemonade.   Continue reading

breathalyzer-test-300x199One of the more common questions a New York criminal defense attorney is asked at a cocktail party is what to do if stopped for suspicion of driving while intoxicated and the officer wishes to administer a breathalyzer test?  To start, be aware that there are two different types of chemical tests: the portable breath test prior to arrest (the so-called “breathalyzer”) and the chemical test at the precinct after you are arrested.  Whether to voluntarily take the test is a crucial question as it may impact not only the ultimate result of a criminal case if an arrest follows but could impact a defendant’s livelihood and liberty as well should there be a conviction.  The short answer? It depends. Continue reading

FullSizeRender-294x300(In last week’s post on winning high profile criminal trials (part II), I discussed the importance of thinking outside the box and creating an atmosphere in the courtroom wherein the government is fighting to keep up with the defense lawyer instead of the other way around: fighting the safe, conservative fight in a high profile case will result in a safe, conservative loss.)

A Defense Lawyer in a High Profile Criminal Trial Must Be Quick-Witted and Quick-Thinking

A sense of humor and ability to think on one’s feet are crucial hallmarks for any top criminal defense attorney.  Any of the best New York criminal trial lawyers I have known have had one thing in common: incredible senses of humor and ability to think quickly – and oftentimes hilariously – on their feet.  And there’s a good reason for this: when you’re defending a very difficult case with a tremendous amount of evidence against your client, the jury is ready to convict before the opening statements are completed.  The default position at the start of the case oftentimes includes a bored jury, disgusted with your client and just biding its time until they can convict and go home to their lives.  So what can a defense lawyer do to stop that runaway train to disaster?  Entertain the jury.  Connect with the jury.  Make the jury laugh.  It’s like anything else in life: make the jury like you enough that they’re willing to listen to what you have to say, willing to give you – and your client – the benefit of the doubt.  And there’s not much competition in the humor or likability department when going up against a prosecutor: first, prosecutors are by their definition required to play it much straighter than a defense lawyer can as they are representatives of the government; second, prosecutors are notoriously stiff and less entertaining than defense lawyers (though I have experienced some very rare exceptions).  Bottom line: if your lawyer can’t entertain you, the client, he’s certainly not going to have the presence during a high profile criminal trial to cause the jurors to follow him over the mountain to an acquittal.

GottiSep21-228x300(In my prior post on winning high profile criminal trials, I discussed the complete and total dedication to the task at hand as well as the needed confidence of the defense lawyer, born from over-preparation, which allows him to take the chances necessary to win a case all observers presume is a lost cause.)

Creativity and Courage Are Crucial If You Want to Win a Big Media Case

Many defense lawyers are afraid to take chances in a high profile case.  The reasoning goes ‘why take a chance of making a fool out of yourself when a good fight is all that anyone expects of you – and you’ll still get good publicity.’  Well, the main reason a great defense attorney will take chances is very simple: he actually wants to win, not just appear like he fought a good fight.  An example: during the Gotti case I decided early on that we would be using a very novel defense, namely that the defendant had actually left the mafia while serving a prior federal prison sentence and, because five years had passed since his withdrawal, the pending federal charges were brought beyond the statute of limitations.  Simply put, even if the defendant had committed the charged acts, if the jury believed the withdrawal defense, he would be acquitted. Continue reading

NewsdayTeflonJohn-219x300How do you win a high profile criminal case that the entire world is watching, you ask?  Many of the necessary concepts can be applied to the defense of any criminal trial, whether it be a federal RICO murder case or a state Assault case, but there are some additional challenges – and opportunities – that are particular to cases which have heavy media coverage.  In the end, when looking for the best New York criminal defense lawyer you can hire to defend you in what you believe is an impossible-to-win case, try to find a lawyer who embodies the concepts I will discuss below: complete and total dedication, confidence, creativity, courage, sense of humor, quick-wittedness under pressure, and lastly, ego.  Added all together, these traits in your lawyer will give you your best chance to win a publicly reported trial.  Remember: any trial can be won, no matter how dismal your chances appear at the start – as long as you find the right lawyer to fight for you. Continue reading