PEOPLE v. LEONTIEV

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The PEOPLE of the State of New York, v. Natalie LEONTIEV, Defendant.

No. 2012NA000491.

Decided: December 12, 2012

Kathleen Rice, Nassau County, District Attorney. Steven F. Christiansen, PLLC, attorney for Defendant.

Papers Submitted:

Notice of Motion․ 1

Affirmation in Support․2

Affirmation in Opposition.....................................․․3

HON. ANDREW M. ENGEL

The Defendant is charged with two counts of driving while intoxicated, aggravated driving while intoxicated, two counts of reckless driving, refusing to take a breath test, leaving the scene of an incident involving property damage without reporting same, driving in excess of maximum speed limit, failure to comply with a lawful order, two counts of passing a red signal, twoemergency vehicle, two counts of making an improper and unsafe turn and throwing refuse onto the highway, all in violation of VTL §§ 1192(2), 1192(3), 1192(2a), 1212, 1194(1)(b), 600(1)(a), 1180(d), 1102, 1111(d)(1), 1131, 1144(a), 1163(a) and 1220(a), respectively.

The Defendant now moves for an order (1) dismissing the charges of refusing to take a breath test, reckless driving, and driving on the shoulder, pursuant to CPL §§ 170.30, 170.35, 100.15 and 100.40; (2) directing that a hearing be held pursuant to People v. Ingle, 36 N.Y.2d 413, 369 N.Y.S.2d 67 (1975); (3) directing that a hearing be held pursuant to Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 99 S.Ct. 2248 (1979) and Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643; 81 S.Ct. 1684 (1961); (4) directing that a hearing be held pursuant to People v. Huntley, 15 N.Y.2d 22, 255 N.Y.S.2d 838 (1965); (5) suppressing the results of a chemical test of her breath pursuant to VTL § 1194, or directing that a hearing be held on the related issues prior to trial; (6) directing the People to disclose any uncharged acts that will be used at trial to impeach the Defendant, should she testify at trial and that a hearing pursuant to People v. Sandoval, 34 N.Y.2d 371, 357 N.Y.S.2d 849 (1974) and People v. Molineux, 168 N.Y. 264, 61 N.E. 286 (1901) be held; and, (7) reserving the Defendant's right to make further motions.

The People consent to the dismissal of the two counts of driving on the shoulder and to the court directing that a Mapp/Huntley/Dunaway hearing be held. They also consent to a Sandoval/Molineux hearing being held immediately before the commencement of trial. The People take no position on that branch of the Defendant's motion which seeks an order dismissing the charge of refusing to take a breath test, and oppose the Defendant's motion in all other respects.

THE ACCUSATORY INSTRUMENTS

The charges of refusing to take a breath test and reckless driving are lodged against the Defendant by way of simplified traffic informations, accompanied by the supporting deposition of P.O. Daniel C. Fliedner, subscribed and attested to on January 8, 2012, which alleges, in pertinent part, that on January 7, 2012, at approximately 9:10 p.m., Officer Fliedner: was finishing a CB call for motor vehicle accident at Plandome Road and Dennis St in Manhasset at which time [he] witnessed a Black Honda SUV with a female driver collide with a 2007 Honda sedan NYR–FAW 1868. This vehicle made no attempt to stop and then proceeded to accelerate passing [him] in the roadway disregarding [his] directions to pull over. [He] then got into [his] RMP and activated the lights and sirens to attempt to stop this vehicle. The defendant, driving a Black Honda CRV NYR–FDM 6461, then headed South bound on Plandome Rd and proceeded West on 25a disobeying a red TSL. As [he] followed the defendant with emergency lights and sirens she approached intersection of 25A and Community Dr. with medium traffic still making no attempts to stop. She stopped behind two cars at the Red TSL in the Left Lane. As [he] exited [his] RMP and approached the defendants (sic ) vehicle, she then accelerated away from [him] and into oncoming traffic disobeying a red TSL. She proceeded South on Community Dr and swerved two times into the North bound lanes crossing the middle divider. The defendant was driving at an estimated speed of 60 MPH, the posted speed limit for Community Dr is 40MPH. While S/B on Community Dr the defendant threw an item from the drivers (sic ) window which appeared to be a small plastic bag. The defendant continued the rate of speed and was recklessly driving as she approached the North service rd (sic ) of the LIE at which time the TSL was red and both S/B lanes had one car in each lane blocking the intersection. The defendant then collided into the rear of a 2009 Tan Toyota RAV 4, NYR–ENK 9075 in the S/B left lane. [He] parked [his] RMP blocking the defendants (sic ) car and approached the drivers (sic ) side door ordering the defendant to exit the vehicle at which time she did not comply after several commands․ The Defendant, now known to [him] as Natalie Leontiev, ․ refused a PBT at scene from PO Palazzo.

These accusatory instruments will be found facially sufficient if “as provided by subdivision one of section 100.25, [they] substantially conform [ ] to the requirements therefor prescribed by or pursuant to law;” See: CPL § 100.40(2), and the supporting deposition “contain[s] allegations of fact, based either upon personal knowledge or upon information and belief, providing reasonable cause to believe that the defendant committed the offense or offenses charged.” CPL § 100.25(2); See People v. Key, 45 N.Y.2d 111, 408 N.Y.S.2d 16 (1978); People v. Hohmeyer, 70 N.Y.2d 41, 517 N.Y.S2d 448 (1987); People v. Titus, 178 Misc.2d 687, 682 N.Y.S.2d 521 (App. Term 2nd Dept.1998); People v. Chittaranjans, 185 Misc.2d 871, 714 N.Y.S.2d 650 (Dist.Ct. Nassau Co.2000) “Reasonable cause to believe that a person committed an offense' exists when evidence or information which appears reliable discloses facts or circumstances which are collectively of such weight and persuasiveness as to convince a person of ordinary intelligence, judgement and experience that it is reasonably likely that such offense was committed and that such person committed it.” CPL § 70.10(2).

VTL § 1194(1)(b) REFUSING TO TAKE A BREATH TEST

VTL § 1194(1)(b) provides:

Every person operating a motor vehicle which has been involved in an accident or which is operated in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter shall, at the request of a police officer, submit to a breath test1 to be administered by the police officer. If such test indicates that such operator has consumed alcohol, the police officer may request such operator to submit to a chemical test in the manner set forth in subdivision two of this section.

Relying on People v. Salerno, 36 Misc.3d 151, 2012 N.Y. Slip Op .3870090 (App. Term 9th & 10th Dists.2012) the Defendant argues that the charge of refusing to take a breath test, in violation of VTL § 1194(1)(b), “is not a legally cognizable charge” (Christiansen Affirmation 4/27/12, ¶ I9) and should be dismissed. The Defendant's reliance on Salerno, id. is misplaced.

While the court in Salerno, id. did “note that Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1194(1)(b) does not make out a cognizable offense,” citing People v. Clancy, 20 Misc.3d 131, 867 N.Y.S.2d 19 (App. Term 9th & 10th Dists.2008) lv. den. 11 NY3d 923, 874 N.Y.S.2d 8 (2009) and People v. Ashley, 15 Misc.3d 80, 836 N.Y.S.2d 758 (App. Term, 9th & 10th Jud. Dists.2007) lv. den. 9 NY3d 863, 840 N.Y.S.2d 892 (2007), as will be discussed a length below, neither cases relied upon by the Salerno, supra. court, nor prior decisions of the Appellate Term, 9th and 10th Judicial Districts and the Court of Appeals, support such a finding.

Neither People v. Clancy, supra. nor People v. Ashley, supra., upon which the Appellate Term relied in Salerno, supra., addressed a defendant who refused to submit to a preliminary or portable breath test [“PBT”] at the request of a police officer pursuant to VTL § 1194(1)(b). In each of those cases, the convictions for “refusal to take a breath test” were reversed because the instruments charging such offense referred to VTL § 1194(3); and, the Appellate Term correctly noted that “that statute neither compels a person who is arrested for driving while intoxicated to submit to a breath test,' nor deems the failure to do so a criminal offense.” People v. Ashley, supra. at 83, 761 and People v. Clancy, supra. Indeed, that statute, VTL § 1194(3), addresses court ordered chemical tests, which may be conducted only:

(b) Upon refusal by a person to submit to a chemical test or any portion thereof as described above [see: VTL § 1194(2) ] ․ [and] upon a finding of reasonable cause to believe that:

(1) such person was the operator of a motor vehicle of a motor vehicle and in the course of such operation a person other than the operator was killed or suffered serious physical injury as defined in section 10.00 of the penal law; and

(2) a. either such person operated the vehicle in violation of any subdivision of section eleven hundred ninety-two of this article, or

b. a breath test administered by a police officer in accordance with paragraph (b) of subdivision one of this section indicates that alcohol has been consumed by such person; and

(3) such person has been placed under lawful arrest; and

(4) such person has refused to submit to a chemical test or any portion thereof, requested in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (a) of subdivision two of this section or is unable to give consent to such a test.

As can be seen, among the statutory predicates to obtaining a court order directing a defendant to submit to a chemical test are either a refusal to submit to a test in accordance with a request made pursuant to VTL § 1194(2) or the conducting of a PBT requested pursuant to VTL § 1194(1)(b).

In the event of a refusal to submit to a chemical test requested pursuant to VTL § 1194(2), assuming a defendant has been properly advised of the consequences of that refusal, a defendant's license shall be temporarily suspended [see: VTL § 1194(2)(b)(3) ] and following a hearing conducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles may be immediately revoked, [see: VTL § 1194(2)(c) ], and not restored for at least one year after such revocation. [see: VTL § 1194(2)(d)(1)(a) ] Additionally, if the defendant's license is so revoked, he or she “shall also be liable for a civil penalty in the amount of [at least] five hundred dollars ․“ [see: VTL § 1194(2)(d)(2) ] In addition thereto, upon a defendant's refusal to submit to a chemical test in accordance with VTL § 1194(2), and by extension VTL § 1194(3), [e]vidence of a refusal to submit to such chemical test or any portion thereof shall be admissible in any trial, proceeding or hearing ․“ [see: 1194(2)(f) ] Clearly, while a refusal to submit to a chemical breath test requested pursuant to VTL §§ 1194(2) and 1194(3) is not a cognizable offense, the Legislature delineated numerous sanctions which follow and are imposed.

In contrast, if the Defendant is correct, the mandatory language in the statute notwithstanding, there would be absolutely no sanction for a defendant who refuses a lawful request of a police officer to submit to a PBT in accordance with VTL § 1194(1)(b). All defendants requested to take a lawful preliminary or portable breath test could simply refuse same, without fear of sanction of any kind, i.e., no license suspension, no license revocation, no civil penalty and no introduction into evidence of his or her refusal. People v. Ottino, 178 Misc.2d 416, 679 N.Y.S.2d 271 (Sullivan Co. Ct.1998) Such an interpretation would effectively write out of VTL §§ 1194(2) and 1194(3) a positive field test as a predicate for a chemical test of a defendant's breath, blood, urine or saliva, as provided by the Legislature, and would remove from the police a tool for investigating accidents and/or vehicle and traffic infractions, as intended by the Legislature.

What the Defendant and the Salerno, supra. court overlook are the provisions of VTL §§ 1101 and 1800(a). The former section provides, in pertinent part, “It is unlawful and, unless otherwise declared in this title with respect to particular offenses, it is a traffic infraction for any person to ․ fail to perform any act required by this title.” The latter section similarly provides, in pertinent part, “It is a traffic infraction for any person to violate any of the provisions of this chapter ․ unless such violation is by this chapter or other law of this state declared to be a misdemeanor or felony.” These are the sections which unequivocally render the Defendant's refusal to submit to a PBT a cognizable offense; more particularly, a traffic infraction. As noted in People v. Steves, 117 Misc.2d 841, 459 N.Y.S.2d 402 (Monroe Town Ct.1983):

․ Section 1800 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law states that it is a traffic infraction (unless a misdemeanor is specified) for any person to violate any of the provisions of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. The Court finds that this is a proper exercise of legislative authority and the provisions of Section 1800 are incorporated into Section 1193–a [the predecessor to Section 1194(1)(b) ] The two sections together describe the offense and punishment.

See also: People v. Hamza, 109 Misc.2d 1055, 441 N.Y.S.2d 579 (Town Ct., City of Gates1981)2 ; People v. Graser, 90 Misc.2d 219, 393 N.Y.S.2d 1009 (Town Ct., City of Amhurst 1977)

While, as the foregoing discussion demonstrates, this court is mindful of the decision in People v. Salerno, supra., this court is also well aware of prior decisions of the same Appellate Term, in People v. Graziano, 19 Misc.3d 133, 859 N.Y.S.2d 905 (App. Term 9th & 10th Jud. Dists 2008) lv. den. 10 NY3d 934, 862 N.Y.S.2d 341 (2008) and of the Court of Appeals, in People v. Cunningham, 95 N.Y.2d 909, 717 N.Y.S.2d 68 (2000) which unequivocally recognize the failure to submit to a lawful request for a preliminary or portable breath test pursuant to VTL § 1194(1)(b) to be a cognizable offense. For all of the reasons discussed hereinabove, this court shall continue to rely on those precedents.

VTL § 1212 RECKLESS DRIVING

VTL § 1212 provides, in pertinent part, “Reckless driving shall mean driving ․ in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway. Reckless driving is prohibited.” “Reckless driving, therefore, standing by itself means the running or operation of an automobile under such circumstances as to show a reckless disregard of the consequences.” People v. Grogan, 260 N.Y. 138, 183 N.E. 273 (1932) “Although unreasonableness' is a necessary constitutent of the crime ․ sufficient facts from which the characterization may be inferred that defendant's operation of this automobile unreasonably' interfered with the free and proper use of the highway, and unreasonably' endangered users thereof[,]” will sustain the sufficiency of the accusatory instrument. People v. Armlin, 6 N.Y.2d 231, 189 N.Y.S.2d 179 (1959)

The Defendant argues that the simplified traffic information charging her with reckless driving must be dismissed, alleging “the supporting deposition fails to say what constituted the reckless driving.” (Christiansen Affirmation 4/27/12, ¶ I7) The Defendant further argues that because “there are two counts of V.T.L. § 1212 charged, one charge must be dismissed as duplicative as the allegations are part of one series of events.” Christiansen Affirmation 4/27/12, ¶ I7)

The People, in opposition, argue that the Defendant's alleged “speed, combined with other aggravating factors can demonstrate that the defendant unreasonably interefered with the free and proper use of the public highway and unreasonably endangered the users thereof, sufficient to constitute the crime of reckless driving.” (Tominovic Affirmation 9/24/12, ¶ 5) The People further argue that the two counts of reckless driving are not duplicative, as “the defendant's actions happened at different times and different locations․” (Tominovic Affirmation 9/24/12, ¶ 6)

Contrary to the Defendant's argument that, at best, only a single act of reckless driving is alleged, the court finds that Officer Fliedner's supporting deposition sets forth two distinct alleged incidents of reckless driving. As alleged, the first begins at Plandome Road and Dennis Street and ends at the intersection of Route 25A and Community Drive, where it is alleged the Defendant brought her vehicle to a complete stop at a red light behind two vehicles. The second commenced at that intersection and continued until the Defendant allegedly collided with a vehicle stopped at a red light on Community Drive approaching the north service road of the Long Island Expressway.

The court finds that the allegations found in Officer Fliedner's supporting deposition to the effect that the Defendant collided with another vehicle, made no attempt to stop, accelerated past the Officer, ignoring his direction to stop, passed a steady red light, and failed to stop in response to the Officer's lights and siren while traveling through medium traffic amply support the first count of reckless driving.

The court further finds that following her alleged stop behind two vehicles at a red light, the Defendant's alleged conduct of accelerating into traffic through a steady read light as the Officer approached her vehicle, swerving twice into the opposing lanes of traffic on Community Drive, driving at a speed of sixty miles per hour in a forty mile per hour zone, passing another steady red light and colliding into the rear of another vehicle supports the second count of reckless driving.

INGLE/DUNAWAY/MAPP/HUNTLEY HEARINGS

As indicated, the People consent to the court conducting a Dunaway/Mapp/Huntely hearing. As for the Defendant's request for an Ingle hearing, the People having consented to, and the court herein ordering, a Dunaway/Mapp/Huntely hearing “grounded in the same facts involving the same police witnesses, the court ․ deem[s] it appropriate in the exercise of discretion to consider the [Ingle ] motion․” People v. Mendoza, 82 N.Y.2d 415, 604 N.Y.S.2d 922 (1993)

CHEMICAL TEST PURSUANT TO VTL § 1194

Other than alleging that the results of the chemical test are the “fruits of the illegal police conduct,” (Chritiansen Affirmation 4/27/12, ¶ III17) the Defendant raises no ground for the suppression of, or a hearing concerning, the chemical test of the Defendant's breath. Accordingly, the Defendant's application to suppress the results of the chemical test shall be heard in the context of the Dunaway/Mapp/Huntley/Ingle hearing and the court shall not entertain any other issues relating to the chemical test of the Defendant's breath at that hearing.

SANDOVAL/MOLINEUX

The Defendant requests, and the People consent to, the disclosure of the Defendant's past criminal history and/or prior bad or immoral acts which the People intend to use at trial and a pre-trial hearing pursuant to People v. Sandoval, supra. and People v. Molineux, supra. This hearing shall be held immediately before the commencement of trial.

FUTURE MOTIONS

The Defendant's reservation of his right to make further motions is unauthorized. See: CPL § 255.20(3) Any future motions will be determined on an individual basis, based upon the timeliness and merits thereof.

CONCLUSIONS

Based upon all of the foregoing, the Defendant's motion is decided as follows:

(1) that branch of the Defendant's motion seeking an order dismissing the charge of refusing to take a breath test is denied;

(2) that branch of the Defendant's motion seeking an order dismissing both counts of reckless driving is denied;

(3) that branch of the Defendant's motion seeking an order dismissing both counts of driving on the shoulder is granted;

(4) that branch of the Defendant's motion seeking an order directing that a Dunaway/Mapp/Huntely/Ingle hearing be held is granted; the date for such hearing will be selected on the next conference date;

(5) that branch of the Defendant's motion seeking an order suppressing the results of a chemical test of his breath pursuant to VTL § 1194, or directing that a hearing be held on the related issues prior to trial, is granted to the extent of ordering that such issue will be included in the Dunaway/Mapp/Huntley/Ingle hearing and shall be limited to the issue of whether or not the breath test was the fruit of an unlawful arrest;

(6) that branch of the Defendant's motion seeking an order directing the People to disclose any uncharged acts that will be used at trial to impeach the Defendant, should he testify at trial and that a hearing pursuant to People v. Sandoval, supra. and People v. Molineux, supra. is granted to the extent of directing that such hearings shall be conducted immediately before the commencement of trial; and

(7) that branch of the Defendant's motion seeking an order reserving the Defendant's time to make further motions is denied.

This constitutes the Decision and Order of this court.

FOOTNOTES

1.  “This breath test, sometimes called a screening test, involves a portable machine which is used by the police on the road to determine whether there is alcohol present in the motorist being tested. This screening or breath test machine is used as a pass/fail test and is basically reliable for the determination of some presence of alcohol in a person's blood but not the actual percentage or concentration.” Carrieri, Practice Commentaries, McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 62A, VTL, p. 91.

2.  While the court in Hamza, supra. found then VTL § 1193–3 to be unconstitutional, violating the Fifth Amendment proscription against self-incrimination, that view was found to be without merit in People v. Brockum, 88 A.D.2d 697, 451 N.Y.S.2d 326 (3rd Dept.1982)

ANDREW M. ENGEL, J.