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Appeals court dismisses vehicle and traffic violations

No evidence of location presented

A state appeals court has overturned three vehicle and traffic law violations because there was no evidence presented that the vehicle involved was in a public place.

Defendant Leonardo Crespo appealed three judgments of the Suffolk County District Court Traffic and Parking Violations Agency issued in February 2021 by a judicial hearing officer.

After a non-jury trial, Crespo was convicted of failing to display an inspection certificate, parking an unregistered vehicle, and abandoning a vehicle.

In a decision released earlier this month, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Second Department, reversed the convictions and dismissed the charges.

During the trial, a prosecution witness testified that he saw a vehicle owned by Crespo at 1850 Route 112 in Coram, Suffolk County, that had been in that specific location for an extended period of time.

Crespo’s lawyer argued that the convictions were against the weight of the evidence because there was nothing in the record showing that the vehicle was parked on a public highway, which is an element of failing to display an inspection certificate and parking an unregistered vehicle, or that the vehicle was left on a “highway or public place,” which is an element of abandoning a vehicle.

A public highway is defined in New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law as “any highway, road, street, avenue, alley, public place, public driveway or any other public way.”

A highway is defined as “the entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.”

There is no statutory definition of “public place” in the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

A parking lot is defined in the law as “any area or areas of private property near or contiguous to and provided in connection with premises having one or more stores or business establishments and used by the public as a means of access to and egress from such stores and business establishments and for the parking of motor vehicles of customers and patrons of such stores and business establishments.”

In order for a parking lot to be a “public highway” under the law, “it must be a way over which the public have a general right of passage,” the court wrote.

“Without additional testimony describing the parking lot in which the car was found, the People failed to establish that the location fell within the definition of a ‘public highway’ or a ‘highway,’ or that it was otherwise a ‘public place.’ Consequently, the verdicts were against the weight of the evidence, as the People failed to establish that the vehicle was left in a location that violated any of the statutes pursuant to which defendant was convicted.”

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