51 N.Y.2d 56, People v. Marrero

Citation:51 N.Y.2d 56, 431 N.Y.S.2d 508
Party Name:People v. Marrero
Case Date:July 08, 1980
Court:New York Court of Appeals

Page 56

51 N.Y.2d 56

431 N.Y.S.2d 508

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,


Jorge MARRERO, Appellant.

New York Court of Appeals

July 8, 1980.

        Susan C. Thon and William E. Hellerstein, New York City, for appellant.

        Eugene Gold, Dist. Atty. (Richard E. Mischel, Asst. Dist. Atty., of counsel), for respondent.


        WACHTLER, Judge.

        The question on this appeal is whether the police may question an individual in the absence of counsel when they know that the defendant was represented by counsel at the time of arrest, but did not know that the attorney had only agreed to arrange the defendant's surrender to the police.

        The defendant, believing he was sought by the police in connection with a homicide investigation, consulted an attorney. At the defendant's request the attorney contacted the police, learned that they were looking for the defendant, and arranged for his surrender. The police went to the attorney's [431 N.Y.S.2d 509] office and took the defendant into custody. At the police station the defendant was advised of his rights, waived them and, after being questioned by the police and an assistant prosecutor, made incriminating statements without the assistance of counsel.

        A pretrial motion to suppress the statements was denied after a hearing. The defendant was then tried and convicted. The Appellate Division, 71 A.D.2d 693, 418 N.Y.S.2d 757 modified the sentence in the interests of justice, but otherwise affirmed.

        On this appeal the defendant claims that the statements should have been suppressed. Relying on People v. Hobson (39 N.Y.2d 479, 384 N.Y.S.2d 419, 348 N.E.2d 894) and related cases, he argues that the police should not have questioned him in the absence of counsel. In Hobson we held (at p. 481, 384 N.Y.S.2d at p. 420, 348 N.E.2d at p. 896): "Once a lawyer has entered a criminal proceeding representing a defendant in connection with criminal charges under investigation, the defendant in custody may not waive his right to counsel in the absence of the lawyer". The People urge that this principle is not applicable here because the defendant was not represented by counsel at the time of the police interrogation. They note that the trial court found that the lawyer had only agreed to assist the defendant by contacting the police and arranging the surrender at which time his services terminated.

        Subsequent to our decision in Hobson we have attached little significance to the contractual arrangements between the defendant and his attorney in determining whether the defendant's right to counsel has been violated during custodial interrogation (but see People v. Taylor, 27 N.Y.2d 327, 318 N.Y.S.2d 1, 266 N.E. 630 decided prior to Hobson). Once an attorney has appeared on the defendant's behalf we have refused to allow the police to rely on arguable ambiguities in the attorney-client relationship in order to justify police questioning of the defendant without the attorney being present (see, e. g., People v. Ramos, 40 N.Y.2d 610, 389 N.Y.S.2d 299, 357...

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