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Substance Abusing Criminal Defendant still requires Mens Rea to plead guilty - Failure to recollect


New York Criminal Defense Attorneys know that Mens Rea Matters. The Defendant here was charged in an indictment with robbery and subsequently pled guilty. There was solid evidence against him and plea resulted in four years in prison to be followed by five years of post release supervision. The Defendant appeals, alleging that he could not formulate the requisite mens rea during his plea allocution and, therefore, the Court erred in accepting his plea.

"From its inception, the criminal law expressed both a moral and a practical judgment about the societal consequences of certain activity." Paul Rosenzweig, Congress Doesn’t Know Its Own Mind—And That Makes You a Criminal, The Heritage Foundation (July 18, 2013), P. 3. Indeed, a "core principle of the American system of justice is that individuals should not be subjected to criminal prosecution and conviction unless they intentionally engage in inherently wrongful conduct or conduct that they know to be unlawful." What about if someone is so intoxicated, or in this case addicting to substances, that he or she cannot simply remember intending or actually committing the crime of which he or she is charged. Here:

Defendant's sole contention is that his guilty plea was not knowing, voluntary and intelligent. Preliminarily, we note that, inasmuch as defendant failed to make an appropriate postallocution motion, this claim is unpreserved for our review (see People v Lunan, 141 AD3d 947, 948 [2016]; People v Horton, 140 AD3d 1525, 1525 [2016]). Nevertheless, we find that the narrow exception to the preservation rule is applicable because defendant's statement during the plea colloquy that he had no recollection of committing the crime due to drug use raises the unaddressed question of his ability to form the intent to forcibly steal property, an essential element of the crime of attempted robbery (see Penal Law §§ 110.00, 160.10; People v Mateo, 13 [*2]AD3d 987, 988 [2004], lv denied 5 NY3d 883 [2005]; see generally People v Serrano, 15 NY2d 304, 308-309 [1965]). Under these circumstances, defendant's statement "casts significant doubt upon [his] guilt or otherwise calls into question the voluntariness of the plea," such that County Court was required to conduct a further inquiry to ensure that defendant's guilty plea was knowing and voluntary (People v Lopez, 71 NY2d 662, 666 [1988]; see People v Mox, 20 NY3d 936, 938 [2012]; People v Green, 141 AD3d 837, 838 [2016]).

The Court did not inquire to Defendant's mindset and the Third Department holds that the conviction must be vacated. Indeed, "Although surveillance videos and DNA evidence tied defendant to the crime, he claimed that he had no recollection of the events as he was a chronic user of controlled substances in 2010." Mens rea still matters and is a vital part of putting forward a criminal defense. Should you or a loved one be charged with a crime or need an appellate criminal defense attorney, call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris.

The case is People v. Laflower, 2016 NY Slip Op 08899 [145 AD3d 1341] (3d Dep't Dec. 29, 2016)

#Mensrea #SubstanceAbuseCrime

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