People v. Epakchi

Decision Date01 April 2021
Docket NumberNo. 19,19
Citation146 N.Y.S.3d 561,37 N.Y.3d 39,169 N.E.3d 931
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Appellant, v. Daria N. EPAKCHI, Respondent.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

37 N.Y.3d 39
169 N.E.3d 931
146 N.Y.S.3d 561

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Appellant,
Daria N. EPAKCHI, Respondent.

No. 19

Court of Appeals of New York.

April 1, 2021

169 N.E.3d 933
146 N.Y.S.3d 563

Suffolk County Traffic Prosecutor's Office, Hauppauge (Justin W. Smiloff of counsel), for appellant.

Law Offices of David A. Day, P.C., Glen Cove (David A. Day of counsel), for respondent.


Chief Judge DiFIORE.

37 N.Y.3d 41

The Appellate Term for the Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts has adopted a rule of criminal procedure under which,

37 N.Y.3d 42

absent special circumstances, the People cannot reprosecute a defendant by filing a new simplified traffic information after the original simplified traffic information was dismissed for facial insufficiency under CPL 100.40(2) for failure to provide a requested supporting deposition in a timely manner. Because that rule has no basis in the Criminal Procedure Law and contravenes our holding in People v. Nuccio, 78 N.Y.2d 102, 571 N.Y.S.2d 693, 575 N.E.2d 111 (1991), we reverse.

In September 2013, a police officer issued a uniform traffic ticket (a type of simplified traffic information)1 to defendant

169 N.E.3d 934
146 N.Y.S.3d 564

for failing to stop at a stop sign in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1172(a). Defendant returned a plea of not guilty on the back of the ticket and requested a supporting deposition of the police officer setting forth factual allegations providing reasonable cause to believe that defendant committed the charged offense (see CPL 100.25[2] ). Not having received the supporting deposition within the time prescribed by law, defendant moved to dismiss the simplified traffic information for facial insufficiency as defined by CPL 100.20, 100.25, and 100.40(2).

In December 2013, the parties appeared before a judicial hearing officer (JHO) assigned to the Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency.2 In accordance with the JHO's instructions, the prosecutor mailed defendant the supporting deposition of the police officer who ticketed her, along with a "superseding" simplified traffic information. The parties reappeared in court two weeks later, at which point a different JHO dismissed the original simplified traffic information. Immediately afterwards, in the hallway of the courthouse, the prosecutor personally served defendant with the police officer's supporting deposition and the new simplified traffic information; these documents were then filed with the local court.

Defendant moved to dismiss the new simplified information, citing, among other statutes, CPL 170.30 and 170.40, as well as case law from the Appellate Term for the Ninth and Tenth

37 N.Y.3d 43

Judicial Districts. Defendant submitted that the Appellate Term "considers it an abuse of discretion when a trial court permits a motorist to be tried based upon a new simplified information and supporting deposition after an original information has been dismissed for failure to timely serve and file a supporting deposition." The People opposed the motion, arguing that our decision in Nuccio, which permits a new prosecution after the dismissal of a simplified information for facial insufficiency, was the controlling law, and that the Appellate Term was not following the rule set forth in that case. Defendant's motion was denied in a written decision on the ground that the Appellate Term's procedural rule, formulated in part before Nuccio was decided, contravened this Court's holding that the Criminal Procedure Law does not prohibit reprosecution on a new, facially sufficient information after a dismissal for failure to comply with CPL 100.40.

The matter proceeded to trial. The police officer testified that he observed defendant driving her car at approximately 35 miles per hour across an intersection without stopping at the stop sign posted there. After hearing this testimony and defendant's contradicting testimony that she made a complete stop for two seconds, the trial JHO found defendant guilty of violating Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1172(a) and sentenced her to pay a fine, fees, and a surcharge.

The Appellate Term for the Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts reversed the judgment of conviction, professedly "as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice";

146 N.Y.S.3d 565
169 N.E.3d 935

vacated the order denying defendant's motion to dismiss; granted the motion; and ordered the fine to be remitted if already paid ( 63 Misc.3d 161[A], 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 50913[U], *1, 2019 WL 2454910 [App. Term, 2d Dept., 9th & 10th Jud. Dists. 2019] ). The court rested its ruling on a line of its own cases requiring special circumstances for the People to prosecute a new simplified information after the original accusatory instrument was dismissed for failure to serve a requested supporting deposition under CPL 100.40(2) ( id. at *2 ). The court noted that it "consistently" dismissed judgments of conviction under such circumstances, reasoning that a "ruling to the contrary would defeat the very purpose of CPL 100.40(2), disregard the interest of judicial economy, and erode the confidence of the public in the criminal justice system" ( id. [internal quotation marks omitted]). In the Appellate Term's view, no special circumstances were shown to exist in this case, and therefore the People could not reprosecute

37 N.Y.3d 44

defendant ( id. ). In light of its conclusion, the court did not "reach defendant's remaining contentions" ( id. ). A Judge of this Court granted leave to appeal ( 34 N.Y.3d 1016, 114 N.Y.S.3d 758, 138 N.E.3d 487 [2019] ).

As a threshold matter, defendant contends that we do not have jurisdiction to entertain this appeal because the Appellate Term characterized its ruling as an exercise of discretion in the interest of justice. But we are not bound by an intermediate appellate court's characterization of its own order, and we must determine for ourselves whether its reversal of the judgment of conviction presents a question of law for our review (see People v. D'Alessandro, 13 N.Y.3d 216, 219, 889 N.Y.S.2d 536, 918 N.E.2d 126 [2009] ; People v. Giles, 73 N.Y.2d 666, 668, 670, 543 N.Y.S.2d 37, 541 N.E.2d 37 [1989] ). First, there can be no dispute that the issue before us—the validity of a procedural rule fashioned by the Appellate Term and invoked by defendant in the trial court to dismiss the criminal action—was fully litigated in the court of first instance (see CPL 470.05[2] ). Second, the Appellate Term has created a rule of criminal procedure requiring a trial court, in the absence of special circumstances, to dismiss a new simplified traffic information after a previous simplified traffic information was dismissed as insufficient on its face for failure to timely serve a requested supporting deposition under CPL 100.25 and 100.40.3

146 N.Y.S.3d 566
169 N.E.3d 936

This presumptive bar to a prosecution that does not meet the special-circumstances requirement constitutes

37 N.Y.3d 45

a legal standard designed to govern the disposition of motions to dismiss accusatory instruments in situations presenting the specified procedural posture. Whether the procedural rule imposed by the Appellate Term is consistent with the Criminal Procedure Law and this Court's precedent is a question of law appealable and reviewable by this Court (see Giles, 73 N.Y.2d at 671, 543 N.Y.S.2d 37, 541 N.E.2d 37 ; Douglass, 60 N.Y.2d at 205, 469 N.Y.S.2d 56, 456 N.E.2d 1179 ). Thus, we have jurisdiction over this appeal.4

A simplified traffic information is a written accusation by a police officer or other authorized public servant, filed with a local criminal court, charging a person with committing a nonfelony traffic offense (infraction or misdemeanor); although it need not contain factual allegations of an evidentiary nature to support the charge, it can serve as a basis for commencing—and, under specified circumstances, prosecuting—a criminal action (see CPL 1.20[5][b] ; 100.10[2][a]; People v. Beattie, 80 N.Y.2d 840, 841, 587 N.Y.S.2d 585, 600 N.E.2d 216 [1992] ). The simplified traffic information must satisfy the prescriptions of CPL 100.25, including the requirement that, upon timely request by the defendant, the complainant police officer or public servant serve on the defendant or defense counsel, within a specified time frame, a supporting deposition containing factual allegations of reasonable cause; the supporting deposition must then be...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT