New York Court Discusses the Improper Joinder of Defendant’s Charges

When the State, such as New York, brings charges against someone, the prosecutor overseeing the case will typically do whatever they can to make obtaining a conviction easier. Among the many tactics prosecutors use to do this is to join cases together so they are tried in a single proceeding. While prosecutors cannot join two cases together solely because it makes a defendant look bad, that is essentially what they are doing. Generally, cases that stem from separate arrests, or were allegedly committed on different days are initiated as separate trials as a default. Under certain circumstances, the prosecution can then file a motion to consolidate the two cases. It is almost always against a defendant’s interest to consolidate cases, provided they are planning on fighting the cases. A recent appellate decision in a New York DWI case illustrates the standards courts use when assessing whether the joinder of two cases is appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, on September 4, 2011, a person was run over on the Hudson Parkway. Video footage of the accident showed that it was a dark Acura that hit the victim. The defendant was the owner of the Acura. Months later, in January 2012, police pulled the defendant over for going 85mph in a 50mph zone while weaving in and out of traffic. The defendant was arrested for a New York DWI offense.

The two cases were joined, and the officer who arrested the defendant for the DWI offense was permitted to testify that he recognized the defendant from the videos taken the night of the September 2011 accident.

When Cases Can Be Joined by the Prosecution

The prosecution can move to join two cases in several circumstances. One situation where joinder may be appropriate is when evidence of one alleged crime would be admissible in a trial for the other offense. Here, the prosecution argued that the arresting officer’s testimony helped prove the State’s theory that the defendant was the driver of the dark Acura on the night of the fatal accident.

The Court’s Opinion

The court rejected the prosecution’s theory as to why the two cases should be joined. The court explained that evidence, dates, and witnesses were all unrelated in the two cases. The court held that it should have been left up to the jury to determine whether the defendant was the person reflected in the video on the night of the fatal accident and that the arresting officer’s testimony was not necessary in the hit-and-run case. The court also held that the admission of the arresting officer’s testimony was not harmless. As a result, the defendant’s convictions were reversed and the court ordered new trials on each charge.

Have You Been Arrested for Multiple New York Crimes?

If you were recently arrested for a New York DWI offense, as well as another crime, and the prosecution has indicated they seek to join the offenses in a single trial, reach out to the dedicated Westchester criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel. Attorney Siesel provides aggressive representation to each of his many clients throughout every stage of the process, ensuring his clients’ rights are upheld and protected. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call (914) 428-7386. You can also reach the firm through their online form.

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