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#352 Third Department Caselaw Round-Up for April 19, 2012, Part 1 of 2

352 Post 04-19-12, Part 1 Third Department April.pngThe first case is quite short, thanks largely to the defendant’s extensive criminal history. However, for this decision to have had any real precedential value, it should have been more fully developed. It’s as if the Third Department thought the facts of the case didn’t even matter.

The second case is another Anders Brief, this time affirmed by the court. What makes this noteworthy is that this was a SORA appeal. As I stated in a recent post, I am surprised that I do not see more Anders Briefs in SORA appeals, since they are almost always doomed from the start. And here it is.

352 Post-2 Delaware County.pngCase #225 #104071
People v. Miller
Delaware County-Becker Issues: Criminal Charges Cited statutes: None Affirmed

The defendant pled guilty to driving while her ability was impaired by drugs. She was then sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison.

The defendant appealed.

It appears that the only arguments that the defendant raised on appeal were as follows:
1. The sentence imposed was unduly harsh; and 2. The court reneged on a promise to place the defendant in a drug treatment program.

The Third Department found that no promises were made to the defendant by the court with regard to any treatment program. Instead, the court had merely stated to the defendant that she would be “considered” for such a program. But here’s where it gets weird: while the defendant did complete a pain management program, the record established “that [the] defendant was still dependent on prescription medication and the completed program did not address her addiction issue.” The implication is that the defendant is out of luck on being considered for any further treatment programs.

This seems counter-intuitive to me. If a defendant has made an attempt, for whatever purpose, to address her substance abuse issues – and has in fact completed a program for those very purposes – it does not necessarily follow that the defendant should be denied any further treatment programs. In fact, the implication is that the defendant’s addiction is so tenacious that further treatment programs are required.

While the court seems to imply that the defendant chose the wrong treatment program (pain management versus drug addiction), presumably because she had no real interest in ending or addressing her drug addiction, all the decision reveals is that the completed program did not “address” the defendant’s addiction issue. Well, is that failure to address the defendant’s addiction issue the fault of the program itself or of the defendant, or maybe both? The decision does not make this clear.

My guess is that, if the defendant’s addiction issues are severe, correctional services will ultimately have no choice but to engage the defendant in extensive drug treatment programs while incarcerated. Otherwise, other than the punishment for committing a crime, what would be the point of her incarceration? I sure the hell don’t want this person released from prison with her drug addiction issues left untreated or unresolved.

The last sentence of this decision leaves me scratching my head. The defendant is seeking to modify her sentence, in part, to include a drug treatment program. This is because the defendant, at long last, probably realized that she has a serious drug abuse problem. The court notes the defendant’s “extensive criminal history”, which could very likely be the result of chronic drug abuse. But then the court finds “no abuse of discretion or extraordinary circumstances to warrant a modification of the sentence in the interest of justice.” I disagree. But, then again, the decision is so bare-bones that there is very little to work with here.

352 Post-3 Saratoga County.pngCase #226 #511986
People v. Smith
Saratoga County-Scarano Issues: Criminal Charges; Sex Offenders Cited statutes: Corrections Law Art. 6-C (SORA)

I expect to see a lot more Anders Briefs in this area if only due to the nature of the SORA statutes and the nature of the hearings themselves. Still, if it were me, I would do everything I could to avoid filing an Anders Brief, if only because I believe that there need to be exceptions carved out of these statutes. BESO (the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders) has far too much power over not only sex offenders but the courts and judges themselves.

Now, all of that being stated, this case truly was worthy of an Anders Brief. Why? Because the defendant was classified as a risk level 1 sex offender – the lowest level. This wasn’t a defendant who was fighting over getting a lower classification, since there is no lower classification. This was a defendant fighting over being classified as a sex offender.

The defendant was convicted in federal court of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 10 years of felony probation. As a result, the defendant was required to register as a sex offender under New York law. Period.

Again: there is zero tolerance in this state for anything concerning child pornography, with which I agree fully.