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Lynn K. Neuner and William T. Russell Jr. Lynn K. Neuner and William T. Russell Jr.

In a recent criminal case, the Court of Appeals declined to extend the impact of its earlier decision in People v. Suazo, 32 N.Y.3d 491 (2018), that recognized a right to a jury trial for class B misdemeanors where a conviction could create a risk of deportation for the defendant. In People v. Udeke, the court rejected the defendant’s attempt to overturn his guilty plea to attempted criminal contempt in the second degree for violating a restraining order protecting his wife. The defendant argued that he was not clearly informed at his plea allocution that he had a right to a jury trial on the class B offense and that his plea accordingly was not a voluntary and knowing waiver of his rights. In a concise memorandum opinion joined by Chief Judge DiFiore and Judges Stein, Fahey, Garcia and Feinman, the majority found that the record supported an intelligent waiver of defendant’s constitutional rights. In a lengthy dissent, Judge Jenny Rivera (joined by Judge Wilson) reviewed the plea allocution in detail and concluded that the trial judge had misinformed the defendant about his right to a jury trial for the class B misdemeanor and the plea should therefore be vacated.

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