Monday, August 15, 2016


Nieves was charged with, among other things, driving while under the influence of alcohol. He was pulled over after an officer observed that Nieves' vehicle did not have any lights lit anywhere, and was overtaking other, slower cars from the left side. The officer noticed Nieves had bloodshot, blurry eyes and slurred speech. A portable breath test indicated a 0.1 BAC. When Nieves was asked at the precinct if he would consent to a breath test, he indicated not until he spoke to a lawyer. The court found the stop of the vehicle was justified for Nieves' violation of not having car lights on after dark, and the officer had probable cause, based on observations, to arrest Nieves for DWI. The court opined if suppression of the refusal to take a blood alcohol test was warranted if Nieves was denied his right to counsel. It ruled Nieves was never afforded the opportunity to provide the officer with complete sentences, as the officer consistently cut-off Nieves nearly after every question posed. The court found Nieves specifically and unequivocally requested counsel before refusing to the chemical test, finding the officer never took steps to enable Nieves to attempt to promptly reach an attorney. Thus, suppression of the refusal was granted.

The full story can be found here:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Judge Declines to Dismiss Criminal Charge Against MTA Driver

A Queens judge has refused to dismiss a criminal charge against a bus driver accused of striking and killing a pedestrian, adding that he disagreed with a fellow Queens judge's recent ruling that the law creating the penalty is unconstitutional.
According to court papers, in November 2014, Curtis Green was driving a bus for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and, while turning right on Northern Boulevard in Queens, allegedly struck Edward Cohen as he crossed the street. Cohen later died of his injuries.
Green was charged with violating Administrative Code §19-190, or the Right of Way Law, enacted as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative to eliminate pedestrian deaths.
The law made the failure to exercise due care by motorists who strike pedestrians or cyclists and cause injury— previously a traffic violation—into the equivalent of a class B misdemeanor.
In a July 27 ruling in People v. Green, 2015QN000650, Queens Criminal Court Judge Ernest Hartrejected Green's arguments that the law violates his due process rights and that the term "due care" is unconstitutionally vague, finding that failure of due care is a culpable mental state that would violate Vehicle and Traffic Law §1146.
Hart's ruling clashes with Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia Morris' June 24 finding in People v. Sanson, 2015QN008701, that the law's application of a civil tort negligence standard—rather than a culpable mens rea, which is typically required in criminal cases—is unconstitutional on its face.
Hart also rejected Green's arguments that the Right of Way Law is preempted by the state's Public Authorities Law, which governs MTA conduct.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Markel appeared for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown's Office.
Harriet Wong, an associate with Armienti, DeBellis, Guglielmo & Rhoden, represented Green.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mixing diet drink with alcohol can backfire

People who mix alcohol and diet drinks end up with more alcohol on their breath, according to a new study.
People who drank vodka mixed with diet soda had higher alcohol concentrations on their breath than those who drank the same amount of vodka mixed with regular soda, researchers wrote in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Crime-prevention materials should include this information so that people know that by trying to avoid some extra calories in a mixed drink, they risk having higher breath-alcohol concentrations, wrote the researchers, led by Amy Stamates of Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, near Cincinnati.
For the new study, researchers had 10 men and 10 women ages 21 to 30 drink five different mixed-beverage combinations over five sessions. The drinks contained varying amounts of vodka and either diet or regular sweetened soda. One drink was just regular soda alone.
The researchers then measured the alcohol concentrations in the participants’ breaths for three hours.
They found higher concentrations of alcohol — as much as 25 percent greater — on the breaths of the participants when they drank the mixed beverages containing diet soda.
Researchers say the findings may be particularly relevant to young women, who are most likely to use diet beverages in their mixed drinks.
Dr. Chris Rayner, a gastroenterologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said that so-called gastric emptying is likely the reason for higher alcohol concentrations in the participants’ breaths.
In a previous study, Rayner found alcohol left the stomach and entered the bloodstream faster when people used diet drinks in their mixed beverages, compared with regularly sweetened drinks.
Rayner, who was not involved in the new study, said the effects of alcohol are mitigated if consumed with nutrients such as sugar, because it slows the entry of alcohol into the small intestine, where it is absorbed by the body.

The full article can be found here:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Judge Shows Skill in Flicking Gravity Knife During Bench Trial

It's not every day you see a federal judge flick open a gravity knife from behind the bench.

Southern District Judge Katherine Forrest wasn't menacing anyone Thursday, nor was she trying to win acceptance from a street gang. She was just trying her hand at opening a knife that is currently illegal under a New York law that sellers and purchasers say should be ruled unconstitutional.

Forrest is presiding over a bench trial where the plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief blocking enforcement of state laws §265.0(5) and §265.01(1)—laws they say expose people who use everyday folding knives for their jobs or simple tasks, and not as weapons, to criminal liability.

Gravity knives are defined as any knife which has a blade that is released from the handle or sheath "by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force" and when released is locked in place "by means of a button, spring, lever, or other device."

Police and prosecutors have long arrested and charged people with possession of a gravity knife if the knife passes the so-called "wrist flick" test that Forrest employed in court Thursday.

The named plaintiff in the case is John Copeland, an artist who said he uses knives for his work and is well aware of the law. Copeland bought the knife at a store in 2009 and immediately asked two police officers to apply the "wrist flick" test.

While neither officer could open the knife that way, in October 2010, Copeland was stopped by two officers who were able to open the knife using what he said were exceptionally forceful wrist flicks.

"A person has no way to know that's a gravity knife or whether they will be prosecuted," plaintiffs' lawyer Daniel Schmutter told the court Thursday in Copeland v. Vance, 11-cv-03918.

Forrest dismissed the case, which includes a second individual plaintiff and a knife seller, Native Leather, for lack of standing in 2013 but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated it in 2015 (NYLJ, Sept. 23, 2015).

Native Leather was charged in 2010 as part of an initiative by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in which he pursued seven retailers who ultimately paid almost $1.8 million in fines.

Native Leather entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with Vance's office.

The law has been criticized by civil liberties advocates as vague because it has been enforced against people possessing simple folding knives—and because they say it has been disproportionately enforced against minorities.

But the suit before Forrest may be short-lived. On Wednesday, the state Legislature passed a bill (A09042/S06483) to reform the law and exclude simple folding knives. The measure now awaits the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Schmutter, of Hartman & Winnicki in Ridgewood, New Jersey, did his own demonstration on a series of knives Thursday and the District Attorney's Office submitted its own video demonstration. The demonstrations were also recorded for the Second Circuit's benefit should there be an appeal.

The full article can be found here.

Friday, February 12, 2016


If you would like to support Peter Liang, please write a letter to the Judge expressing your feelings about the trial and verdict. I have included a SAMPLE letter below, but you don't have to use it. If you have the time, you can choose to write a letter in your own words.

Send the letter to me (and not the Judge directly) so I can include it in a court filing.

You can email it to: or fax it to 718-979-9784 or mail it to:

Robert E. Brown, PC 
44 Wall Street, 12th Floor

New York, NY 10005

[Name & Address]



_________________, 2016
Chambers of the Honorable Danny Chun
Supreme Court of the State of New York
County of Kings
320 Jay Street, 19th Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11201

                                    RE:     People v. Peter Liang
                                                Indictment No. 9988/2014

Dear Honorable Chun,

            I am writing to you in support of Police Officer Peter Liang. I believe that his conviction was unjust and I do not believe that the charge of reckless manslaughter is supported by any reasonable view of the evidence submitted at trial. Likewise, the conviction of official misconduct is unsupported by the evidence.

I respectfully ask that you set aside the illogical verdict handed down by the jury. If you will not set aside the verdict, I respectfully ask that you sentence Police Officer Peter Liang to probation. Institutional confinement of Police Officer Peter Liang is not necessary for the protection of the public. A prison sentence would be inconsistent with the ends of justice.

Respectfully submitted,