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Waiving Your Rights In Court: Pay Attention To What Your Attorney says


Criminal Appeals Lawyer Waiving Your RightsPeople v Dumway

2014 NY Slip Op 04038

New York Court Of Appeals

Decided on: June 5, 2015

Waiving Your Rights In Court: Pay Attention To What Your Attorney says

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Summary: Defendant Dumway was charged with obstructing governmental administration in the second degree by preventing a police officer from patrolling the neighborhood. In the trial court, Prosecution asked Defense counsel if Defendant waived prosecution by information. Defense counsel replied, “so waive” while standing beside Defendant in open court. Thereafter, Defendant appealed to the appellate Term and stated that he did not waive his prosecution by information, and as a consequence the accusatory instrument was subject to the legal standards applicable to misdemeanor complaint, rather than an information. The Court Of Appeals held the affirmative act of waving in open court showed that Defendant expressly waived his right to prosecution by information, requiring the accusatory instrument to be evaluated as a misdemeanor complaint, the judgment was affirmed.

Issue: Whether a Defendant knowingly waived prosecution by misdemeanor information.

Holding:  Yes. A Defendant may knowingly and intelligently waive prosecution when he makes an affirmative act.  When the Judge asked Defendant if he wanted to waive his prosecution, Defense counsel, representing Defendant said, “so waive” when Defendant was standing next to him in open court. This statement communicated that Defendant chose to waive his right. By pleading guilty and waiving prosecution by information, a Defendant loses all protection afforded to him when prosecuted by information. The accusatory instrument must only satisfy the reasonable cause requirement standard applicable to misdemeanor complaints. The Court found that Defendant expressly waived his right to prosecution by information, requiring the instrument to be evaluated as a misdemeanor complaint.

Facts: Defendant was charged with obstructing governmental administration by preventing Police from patrolling a neighborhood. Defendant slammed the trunk of the police officer’s car with an open hand and stood behind the car preventing the officer from patrolling the neighborhood. Defendant agreed to plead guilty to obstructing governmental administration in exchange for a fifteen-day sentence.  At trial, the court asked defense counsel if Defendant waived his prosecution by information, and defense counsel replied, “So waive.”  Defendant appealed to The Appellate Division where it was held that Defendant’s challenge was jurisdictional and therefor did not require preservation.

The Court Of Appeals held, a valid and sufficient accusatory instrument is a nonwaivable jurisdictional prerequisite to a criminal prosecution and that a court must use either one of two instruments to gain jurisdiction over a Defendant accused of a misdemeanor, a misdemeanor complaint or a misdemeanor information. The Defendant expressly waived his right to prosecution by information as demonstrated by an affirmative act, which meant that the standard for a misdemeanor complaint applied to Defendant’s case when he expressly waived his right in open court. A misdemeanor complaint need only set fourth facts that establish reasonable cause to believe that the Defendant committed the charged offenses.

Legal Analysis: When the Judge asked Defendant Dumway if he wanted to waive his prosecution, Dumway made an affirmative act while standing next to Defense counsel and counsel said, “so waive” in an open court. The Defendant expressly waived his right to prosecution by information, requiring the instrument to be evaluated as a misdemeanor complaint.

A misdemeanor complaint authorizes jurisdiction over an accused, and can commence a criminal action. Under that standard, The Court concluded that the allegations were sufficient to support a charge of obstructing governmental administration. The accusatory instrument supplied enough evidentiary facts to provide reasonable cause to believe that Defendant obstructed a Police officer from preforming an official function.

A misdemeanor information must set forth nonhearsay allegations. This is referred to as the prima face case requirement. An information serves the same role in a misdemeanor prosecution as a grand jury indictment does in a felony case; it ensures that a legally sufficient case can me made against the Defendant. A misdemeanor complaint, in comparison, need only set forth facts that establish a reasonable cause to believe that Defendant committed the charged offenses.