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Lawyers! Stop Repeating Yourselves! Arguments Made Prior To Trial Do Not Have To Be Repeated To Preserve The Issues For Appeal.


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People v Finch

2014 NY Slip Op 03424

Court of Appeals

Decided on May 13, 2014

Finally…someone tells all the lawyers that they can stop repeating themselves.  New York’s highest court says that arguments made prior to commencement of trial do not have to be repeated at the close of the People’s case in order to preserve the issue for appeal. 

FIND OUT WHAT’S ANNOYING TO NEW YORK’S HIGHEST COURT

Summary: The New York Court of Appeals held, that when an attorney makes a sufficiency argument prior to trial, the attorney does not have to repeat the argument at the close of trial in order to preserve the issue for appeal.

Issue:  Whether an argument regarding the sufficiency of evidence that is made prior to trial must be repeated after the close of trial in order to preserve the issue for appeal.

Holding: The Defendant made a specific motion to argue legal insufficiency and was not required to make the same arguments after the close of trial to preserve the issue for appeal.

Facts: Chelsea Bradley and her son live at Parkside Commons, an apartment complex in Syracuse, New York. Her son’s father, the Defendant, was invited over to spend time with their son at the apartment complex. He obtained permission with Parkside Commons Manager, and occasionally visited to spend time with his son. On April 28, 2009, Defendant, along with three other adults, was outside of the lobby when two officers James Quatrone and Todd Hood, who were patrolling the area, arrested Defendant for trespassing. While Officer Quatrone was waiting with Defendant in a car on the way to the Justice Center, Bradley emerged from a building and made a video recording of the event on her cellphone.

After the April 28th incident, the manager denied permission to have Defendant visit their son on the property. Nevertheless, Defendant continued to enter the property at Bradley’s invitation. Quatrone arrested him twice more for trespassing: May 12 in the lobby of another building and on May 27th in a parking lot. The May 27th arrest led to the resisting arrest charge that is subject of this appeal. Defendant was charged with three counts of criminal trespass and one for resisting arrest. A jury in City Court acquitted him of the first trespass charge relating to April 28, but convicted him on the remaining counts.

Legal Analysis: Prior to addressing the merits of this case, the Court entertained a threshold question regarding the preservation of an issue for appeal. Prior to trial, the Defendant raises questions on the resisting arrest charges and received an adverse ruling on the sufficiency arguments. The Court of Appeals held that it is not necessary that he repeat the arguments at the close of trial in order to preserve the issue for appeal. The Defendant argued the same theory in support of his motion to dismiss for insufficiency of the evidence at trial.

The Defendant was arrested for resisting arrest. A person commits resisting arrest when he or she “intentionally prevents, or attempts to prevent a police officer from effecting an authorized arrest,” Penal law §205.30.  The court noted that an arrest is “authorized” only if, it “was premised on probable cause” People v Jenson 86 NY2d 248.

Officer Quatrone did not have probable to arrest Defendant on April 28th. There was sufficient evidence to show that the Defendant was not guilty of trespassing. Bradley came out of her building and witnessed Defendant saying, “You can not arrest me.” The Defendant’s status as Bradley’s guest entitled him to enter the property and therefore he was not trespassing.

The Defendant claimed a defense based as a guest prior to trial and also emphasized the point during the presentation of evidence at trial. Quatrone admitted that he claimed he saw defendant watching his son with the approval of his mother, which proves Officer Quatrone was aware. Although Defendant did not specifically repeat his argument at trial in his dismissal motion, there is no reason to think that the absence of that repetition biased the People at all. The Court held the same argument made prior to trial does not have to be repeated in order to observe the issue for Appeal.