The Law Offices of John Ferrara

What Types Of Criminal Cases Does Your Firm Handle?

At the trial level, our firm handles allegations of DWI, sex offenses, drug charges, and domestic violence. At the appellate level, we handle just about everything.

What Are Miranda Rights? When Do They Come Into Play In A Criminal Case?

In limited circumstances, there are serious consequences to the police officer’s failure to administer Miranda warnings. First, before there will be any consequences for the failure to administer the Miranda warnings, the defendant must be subjected to what’s called custodial interrogation. The Miranda court itself said, “At the outset, if a person is in custody and is to be subjected to interrogation, he must first be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent.” (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467-468 [1966]). We hear the key phrases there—a person in custody and subjected to interrogation. Whether one is in custody and whether one has been subjected to interrogation has been the focus of many cases decided since the Supreme Court decided Miranda in 1966.

As to whether one is in custody, courts look to the defendant’s circumstances, and whether a reasonable person in his or her shoes would have felt if he was free to leave. A person handcuffed to a pole in a police station will more strongly suggest that the person is in custody. A brief stop on the side of the road or on the sidewalk while walking, with no signs of intimidation, less strongly suggest that the person is in custody.

As to interrogation, a quote from the court of appeals “The term interrogation under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody), that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.” (People v. Ferro, 63 N.Y.2d 316, 322 [1984], cert. denied 472 U.S. 1007 [1985], quoting Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301 [1980]).

Thus, when a defendant blurts out in a police station a statement not in response to any question whatsoever, an answer that the defendant would like to keep out of the courtroom, the courts do not fault the police for hearing what the defendant said.

We need also to understand the remedy for a violation of the Miranda rule. It is not the dismissal of the charges, it is instead the suppression of the statement made in response to the custodial interrogation. It means the court will not allow the prosecutor to use that statement against the defendant in its direct case. If the prosecutor can prove the case against the defendant another way, without the statement, the Miranda rule and the violation of the Miranda rule do not prevent a conviction. Further, if the defendant chooses to testify after the court has said the prosecutor cannot use the statement, the court only means the prosecutor cannot use that statement in its case against the defendant. (People v. Wise, 46 N.Y.2d 321 [1978]).

Once the defendant takes the witness stand, he can be impeached in the cross examination by the prosecutor, and the prosecutor can use the previously suppressed statement as part of the cross examination—not to prove what was said is true, but to prove that what the defendant said on the witness stand is untrue. For example, if the defendant said the gun is mine, but the court suppresses that statement because of the violations of the Miranda warnings, the defense has scored a victory. However, if the defendant testifies after the court suppressed the statement, and says that was not my gun, then the prosecutor can once again question the defendant about that statement. The prosecutor is not proving that the gun belonged to the defendant; the prosecutor is proving that the defendant made a false statement on the witness stand. Yet to the ears of the jury, that’s going to sound very much like the defendant is admitting the gun is his.

What Are The Main Differences Between Felony And Misdemeanor Charges?

There is a definitional difference between felony and misdemeanor charges. The legislature classifies what the legislature determines to be the more serious cases as felonies, and the less serious cases as misdemeanors. The legislature could choose to classify these things differently. Having made the distinction that certain cases are felonies, and other cases are misdemeanors, the difference to the defendant is the potential sentence is different. Persons convicted of felonies are liable for far more serious penalties, and future convictions will be more seriously handled and perhaps sentenced because if someone has a felony today. 10 years, or even 5 years from now, another felony may subject someone to a much greater penalty in the future.

This is really definitional. Because the legislature is a political body, as representative of the public, the legislature decides what to deem more serious and to therefore deem to be felonies. Within felonies, there are more serious and less serious felonies. Those things can change with politics. New people come into the office and the political winds change. They can start to classify things that were previously misdemeanors as felonies. They can classify things that were previously felonies as misdemeanors.

For more information on Handling Criminal Cases In New York, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (845) 794-1303 today.

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