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Right To Counsel Does Not Attach Because Of Delay In Arraignment


right to counsel does not attach solely on delays in arraignment appeals

People v. Ramos

99 N.Y.2d 27

New York Court Of Appeals

Decided on: October 22, 2002

 A Delay In Arraignment For Purposes Of Further Police Questioning Does Not Cause A Deprivation Of The Right To Counsel.

Summary: Police investigated Defendant for the murder of Jennifer Yee. At the police station, Defendant admitted that he was at Yee’s house the night before.  He told the Detectives that he found her near death and bleeding but denied responsibility for the crime. A few hours later, Defendant waived his right to counsel, and gave a full written confession of the murder. Following his indictment for second-degree murder, Defendant moved to suppress his confession, claiming that it was the product of Police coercion. At no point did he argue that the police officers violated his right to counsel or that any delay in arraignment led to his confession. A jury found him guilty at the trial level.

Defendant appealed to the Appellate Division where he argued for the first time that the delay in his arraignment for the purpose of obtaining a confession violated his State Constitutional right to counsel. In support of his argument, Defendant referred to his trial testimony of Detective Joanne Toole, the arresting officer. Toole testified on cross-examination that after Defendant was placed under arrest, she stopped the booking process because she believed Defendant had more information about the crime. The Appellate Division held that Defendants right to counsel claim could not be raised on appeal even though it was unpreserved and granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals held that Defendant’s claim involves only an asserted violation of CPL 140.20, not the State Constitutional right to counsel and that Defendant’s failure to preserve any argument based on CPL 140.20 compels affirmance of the Appellate Division order.

See Also: Investigation Of Defense Counsel May Cause Conflict Of Interest

Issue: Whether a delay in arraignment for the purpose of obtaining a confession deprives a Defendant the State Constitutional right to counsel.

Holding: The Court of Appeals held that a delay in arraignment for the purpose of further police questioning to obtain Defendant’s confession does not establish a deprivation of the State Constitutional right to counsel. The delay in arraignment claim must instead be made under CPL 140.20(1); a prompt-arraignment statue which must be preserved for Appellate review by being raised in a suppression or motion or at trial in advance.

Facts: Police investigated Defendant for the murder of Jennifer Yee. Detectives asked Defendant to accompany them to the police station and he agreed. Defendant admitted that he was at Yee’s house the night before and told the Detectives that he found her near death and bleeding but denied responsibility for the crime. A few hours later, Defendant waived his right to counsel, and gave a full written confession of the murder. Following his indictment for second-degree murder, Defendant moved to suppress his confession, claiming that it was the product of Police coercion. At no point, did he argue that the police officers violated his right to counsel or that any delay in arraignment led to his confession. A jury found him guilty at the trial level.

Defendant appealed to the Appellate Division where he argued for the first time that the delay in his arraignment for the purpose of obtaining a confession violated his State Constitutional right to counsel. In support of his argument, Defendant referred to his trial testimony of Detective Joanne Toole, the arresting officer. Toole testified on cross-examination that after Defendant was placed under arrest, she stopped the booking process because she believed Defendant had more information about the crime. The Appellate Division held that Defendants right to counsel claim could not be raised on appeal even though it was unpreserved and granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals held that Defendant’s claim involves only an asserted violation of CPL 140.20, not the State Constitutional right to counsel and that Defendant’s failure to preserve any argument based on CPL 140.20 compels affirmance of the Appellate Division order.

Legal Analysis: The Court of Appeals held that the State Constitutional right to counsel is a “cherished principle”. First, it arises when formal judicial proceedings begin, whether or not the Defendant has actually retained or requested a lawyer. Second, the right to counsel attaches when an uncharged individual has actually retained a lawyer in the matter at issue, or, while in custody, has requested a lawyer in that matter, and Third, the prompt-arraignment statue does not by its terms or by implication, create a right to counsel.

The case here does not fall into either of those situations in which the right to counsel attaches. When Defendant confessed, judicial proceedings had not yet begun, nor had Defendant retained or requested an Attorney. Defendant twice waived his right to counsel and does not claim otherwise. Instead, he argues that his Constitutional right to counsel arose when the officers deliberately delayed his arraignment for the purpose of obtaining an uncounseled confession.

      The Court rejected the Defendant’s claim and held that they cannot agree with Defendant’s argument that because he was physically in police custody awaiting arraignment his right to counsel had attached, and no decision in Court so holds. The Court of Appeals noted that they have never held that a deliberate delay of arraignment for the purpose of obtaining a confession triggers the State Constitutional right to counsel. Defendant was free at any time to invoke his right to counsel, at which point the detectives would have stopped questioning him.

An undue delay in arraignment does not give rise to a State Constitutional right to counsel. A Defendant’s interests in securing counsel after arrest are already well protected under federal and state law. A confession must be suppressed if it was involuntary by reason of an undue delay in arraignment under the prompt-arraignment statue CPL 140.20.

CPL 140.20 does not by its terms or by implication create a right to counsel; rather, it is designed to protect against unlawful confinement, and to assure that the accused are advised of their rights and given notice of the charges against them.

Defendant’s claim that his confession should have been suppressed because it was obtained as a result of an undue delay in his arraignment does not implicate any Constitutional right to counsel, but, rather, asserts only a claim pursuant to CPL 140.20, which is unpreserved for Appellate review. The Court of Appeals has been careful to state, however, that except in cases of involuntariness, a delay in arraignment, even if prompted by a desire for further police questioning, does not warrant suppression.

      In this case, Defendant does not contend that his confession was involuntary or that his waiver of the right to counsel was ineffective. Moreover, allowing a Defendant, under Constitutional guise, to raise a claim of this type for the first time on Appeal would not only make Appellate review difficult, it would seriously prejudice the People. They would not have a chance to rebut the Defendant’s claim by showing other reasons for the delay in arraignment, such as the need to continue the investigation. For these reasons, the Court of Appeals held that a delay in arraignment for the purpose of further police questioning does not establish a deprivation of the State Constitutional right to counsel. The delay in arraignment claim must instead be advanced under CPL 140.20 (1). Because Defendant did not do so at the trial level, any claim based on that provision is unpreserved for review. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division’s order.


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