NYCA Expands Right to Jury Trial for Immigrants Charged with Misdemeanors

In People v. Suazo, the Court of Appeals held that a noncitizen defendant who demonstrates that a charged crime carries the potential penalty of deportation is entitled to a jury trial even if the potential incarceratory sentence is less than six months, the presumptive dividing line between serious and petty offenses under the Sixth Amendment. New York City defendants, unlike those in the rest of the State (and much of the country), are not statutorily entitled to jury trials if they are charged with nothing more serious than class-B misdemeanors. CPL 340.40(1). The Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial does not automatically attach to those charged with class-B misdemeanors, because the maximum Penal Law sentence is 90 days’ incarceration. Under the Sixth Amendment, crimes with a maximum sentence of six months or less are presumptively not entitled to a jury trial. CAL argued, and the Court agreed, that the crimes for which Mr. Suazo was charged—class-B misdemeanors—were nonetheless serious within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment because they might cause him to be deported: defendant “met his burden of establishing that the crimes carry an additional penalty beyond incarceration—namely, deportation—which he contends is a sufficiently severe penalty to rebut the presumption that the crimes are petty for Sixth Amendment purposes.