Legal Aid Court Of Appeals Victory For Client Exemplifies The Comprehensive Services Legal Aid Provides

In People v. Josefina Jimenez, the New York State Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division and granted a Legal Aid client’s motion to suppress evidence, thereby requiring dismissal of the felony criminal possession of a weapon charge and the reduction of the felony criminal trespass charge to criminal trespass in the second degree, a misdemeanor.

As a result, Josefina Jimenez, who was granted bail pending appeal, does not have to serve the three and one-half year sentence that was imposed after trial. Just as important, Ms. Jimenez, who is a legal resident of the United States, no longer faces deportation from the United States. This represents a huge victory for Ms. Jimenez that her Legal Aid lawyers Richard Joselson and Jodi Smith achieved for her. This case exemplifies the comprehensive client services that Legal Aid Society staff in all five boroughs provide every day, 365 days of the year.

In 2008, Jodi Smith, a staff attorney in the Legal Aid Criminal Defense office in the Bronx, contacted the Society's Civil Practice Immigration Law Unit to get advice regarding the immigration consequences of the charges in Ms. Jimenez’s criminal case. Because a conviction of the criminal possession of a weapon charge would result in her client being placed in deportation proceedings, Ms. Smith advised her client accordingly and developed a litigation strategy. Because of the definite immigration consequences, Ms. Jimenez moved to suppress the weapon at a pre-trial hearing and ultimately, upon denial of that motion, proceeded to trial. After conviction, mindful of her client’s lack of criminal record and the meritorious suppression issue, Ms. Smith contacted the Legal Aid Criminal Appeals Bureau regarding an application for bail pending appeal.

After the Bronx trial court sentenced Ms. Jimenez to three and a half years in state prison, with Ms. Smith's assistance, Rich Joselson, a supervisor in Legal Aid's Criminal Appeals Bureau, made a successful application to the Appellate Division for bail pending appeal. When Ms. Jimenez’s family went to her upstate facility to post the bail, however, prison officials informed the family that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had already lodged a warrant based on the conviction. Mr. Joselson and Ms. Smith immediately contacted the Society's Immigration Law Unit, which successfully advocated with ICE to have the detainer removed based on the fact that Ms. Jimenez’s only criminal conviction was still on direct appeal.

While Ms. Jimenez remained at liberty, Rich Joselson appealed the denial of the suppression motion to the Appellate Division, and then, ultimately, to the New York State Court of Appeals. The victory in the Court of Appeals not only secures the privacy interests of New Yorkers against unlawful searches, but secures Ms. Jimenez’s ability to remain in the United States as a legal resident.