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Tuesday
May202014

Penal Law Section 240.30(1) is "Utterly Repugnant to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution"-- NYS Court of Appeals Confirms what Defense Attorneys Have Been Thinking All Along

In People v Golb, 2014 NY Slip OP 02346, Justice Abdus-Salaam, reasons that Penal Law Section 240.30(1), "criminalizes, in broad strokes, any communication that has the intent to annoy..."[N]o fair reading" of this statute's "unqualified terms supports or even suggests the constitutionally necessary limitations on its scope" (id. at 52; see also People v Dupont, 107 AD2d 247, 253 [1st Dept 1985] [observing that the statute's vagueness is apparent because "[i]t is not clear what is meant by communication 'in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm' to another person"]). And, as in Dietze, "we decline to incorporate such limitations into the statute by judicial construction" because that would be "tantamount to wholesale revision of the Legislature's enactment, rather than prudent judicial construction" (id. at 53). "Three federal judges have already found this statute unconstitutional (see Vives v the City of New York, 305 F Supp 2d 289, 299 [SD NY 2003, Scheindlin, J.], revd on other grounds 405 F3d 115 [2d Cir 2004] ["where speech is regulated or proscribed based on its content, the scope of the effected speech must be clearly defined"]; see also Vives 405 F3d 115, 123-124 [2d Cir 2004, Cardamone, J., dissenting in part, concurring in part] [Penal Law § 240.30(1) unconstitutional on its face and as applied]; Schlager v Phillips, 985 F Supp 419, 421 [SD NY 1987, Brieant, J.], revd on other grounds, 166 F3d 439 [2d Cir 1999] [statute is "utterly repugnant to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and also unconstitutional for vagueness"]). "Accordingly, we conclude that Penal Law § 240.30(1) is unconstitutional under both the State and Federal Constitutions, and we vacate defendants' convictions on these counts." The opinion is dated May 14, 2014, and is sadly too late for some individuals who have already taken pleas, paid fines, lived under probation supervision, or even done some jail time after facing charges under this statute. But...better late than never, as they say.
Tuesday
Jan292013

Andrew Cumo's 2013-2014 Budget--Your Driving Privileges 

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Budget calls for two major changes which will impact all New York State motorists!
The first: restrictions on motorists' ability to plea bargain speeding tickets.  
  • Why? When you pay a court fine for an infraction like "parking on the pavement" that money goes to the municipality where the court is.  Fines from speeding tickets, in contrast, are paid to the State.  
  • What does that mean for you? Less favorable plea offers, meaning more points on your license, higher insurance premiums, and potential mandatory suspension of your driving privileges. 
  • What can you do? Do not speed!!! However, if you are pulled over and the officer advises you that you were speeding, be sure to ask him or her for a supporting deposition!  While most law enforcement officers do a very good job at enforcing traffic laws, they do sometimes make mistakes! Having a copy of your ticket, the officer's supporting deposition, and  your own notes about what exactly occurred can help an attorney determine if your speeding ticket is defensible! Also, if you do not answer your traffic ticket, local courts can issue orders suspending your driving license which will lead to more fees and potential criminal charges (more on that below).
The second: suspension of driving privileges for individuals with $10,000 or more in tax liability.
  • Why? If you drive regularly, you probably know that (unless you live in New York City), your driving "privilege" is pretty much essential to your ability to participate in and contribute to society.  You need to drive for work, for doctors appointments, for school, for grocery shopping, for movies, and pretty much for almost everything.  The thinking is that, considering how important the ability to drive is to most New Yorkers, those who owe significant amounts in taxes will pony up the money if they are denied the privilege of driving.  Any individual who has fallen behind in his or her child support obligation is likely familiar with how compelling the sanction of having a suspended license can be.  
  • What does this mean to you? What you probably know is that not having a license can really hamstring you in fulfilling your day to day obligations and responsibilities.  What you probably did not know is that if you drive while your license is suspended you are committing a crime. In fact, it is a more serious offense to drive with a suspended license than it is to drive having never been a licensed driver at all! Here is how the process works: the DMV sends you a notice indicating that your license has been suspended.  Thereafter, you cannot drive until you correct whatever caused your license to be suspended and paid an additional fee to the DMV to have the suspension removed. It is not unheard of for people to be completely unaware that their licenses are suspended.  
  • Here's what you can do: do not think that because you never answered a parking ticket or heard anything about it for months at a time that there is no issue.  Your license has probably been suspended and you will be facing criminal charges if you are pulled over.  Make sure you answer all traffic tickets.  Make sure you pay all of your court fines and child support obligations (and soon, your taxes too!).  If you are having difficulty meeting these obligations, contact the agencies/individuals you are obligated to and see if there is any sort of agreeable modification that can be reached.  Courts in particular are very willing to work with people who have a hard time paying their fines, but they are very unforgiving when they have simply been blown off.  Make sure that each agency or individual you are obligated to has your correct contact information.  Make sure the DMV has your correct contact information.  If you owe child support and you work out an informal agreement to pay less than what is court ordered, make sure that the other parent acknowledges that informal agreement in writing by signing it.  More importantly, the second that your economic situation changes and you cannot afford your child support obligation, file for a modification! If you do not know how this process works, most attorneys can represent you in this process. As with most things in life, ignoring these obligations can lead to outcomes which are disastrous to you, your career, your finances, and your family.  One final reason it is important not to ignore an issue that may impact your driving privileges: In most situations, the DMV will permit the motorist to apply for a special restricted license to drive to and from work, church and doctor's appointments.  This will help you avoid a situation where you are charged with a crime for driving while your license was suspended.      

http://online.wsj.com/article/AP87cac4e2ceed473cbd9060e51c59e06b.html

Thursday
Dec132012

justice....under the law

"You can do real time in jail in America for all kinds of ridiculous offenses, for taking up two subway seats in New York City, if you fall asleep in the subway. People go to jail for that all the time in this country, for having a marijuana stem in your pocket. There are 50,000 marijuana possession cases in New York City alone every year. And here we have a bank that laundered $800 million of drug money, and they can’t find a way to put anybody in jail for that. That sends an incredible message not just to the financial sector but to everybody. It’s an obvious, clear double standard, where one set of people gets to break the rules as much as they want and another set of people can’t break any rules at all without going to jail. And I just don’t see how they don’t see this problem."-Matt Taibbi on the double standards in our criminal justice system, as is so exceptionally apparent from the way the government handled HSBC's Mexican drug cartel money laundering scam. http://www.democracynow.org/2012/12/13/matt_taibbi_after_laundering_800_million
Thursday
Jul052012

Matt Taibbi's take on USA v. Carollo--Brilliant as always!

"USA v. Carollo marks the first time we actually got incontrovertible evidence that Wall Street has moved into this cartel-type brand of criminality. It also offered a disgusting glimpse into the enabling and grossly cynical role played by politicians, who took Super Bowl tickets and bribe-stuffed envelopes to look the other way while gangsters raided the public kitty. And though the punishments that were ultimately handed down in the trial – minor convictions of three bit players – felt deeply unsatisfying, it was still a watershed moment in the ongoing story of America's gradual awakening to the realities of financial corruption. In a post-crash era where Wall Street trials almost never make it into court, and even the harshest settlements end with the evidence buried by the government and the offending banks permitted to escape with no admission of wrongdoing, this case finally dragged the whole ugly truth of American finance out into the open – and it was a hell of a show."

-Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone Magazine, June 21, 2012

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-scam-wall-street-learned-from-the-mafia-20120620#ixzz1zijeyRpp

Thursday
Jun282012

Ron Paul on SCOTUS Obamacare decision

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Ron Paul issued the following statement on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"I strongly disagree with today’s decision by the Supreme Court, but I am not surprised.  The Court has a dismal record when it comes to protecting liberty against unconstitutional excesses by Congress.    


"Today we should remember that virtually everything government does is a 'mandate.'  The issue is not whether Congress can compel commerce by forcing you to buy insurance, or simply compel you to pay a tax if you don’t.  The issue is that this compulsion implies the use of government force against those who refuse.  The fundamental hallmark of a free society should be the rejection of force.  In a free society, therefore, individuals could opt out of “Obamacare” without paying a government tribute.

http://paul.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1987&Itemid=28