Appellate Term Reverses Village of Port Jefferson Illegal Rental Permit Convictions
November 13, 2017
Week to week we blog about recent developments in the land use arena, which typically arise in the civil context. This week, we thought a recent “criminal” case decided by the Supreme Court, Appellate Term, Second Department, was not only particularly interesting, but also, the topic of illegal rental permits is one that many land use practitioners grapple with multiple times during their legal careers.
On October 26, 2017, the Appellate Term decided People v Makrides, 2017 NY Slip Op 51442 (U). In Makrides, the Village Code Enforcement Officer alleged that on August 20, 2014, he visited property located on Beach Street. The door was answered by an individual who identified himself as a renter and of no relation to the owner, Marie Makrides, with Beach Street Properties. Based on a further review of rental permit records, and the lack thereof, the Code Enforcement Officer issued an Information alleging that Makrides was in violation of Village Code Section 205-4, failure to obtain a rental occupancy permit.
The Code Enforcement Officer visited the property again on November 5, 2014; except for the testimony of the alleged renter, the Code Enforcement Officer found the property to again be in violation of the rental occupancy permit ordinance.
Makrides’ attorney moved to dismiss the accusatory instruments for facial insufficiency (CPL 100.15; 100.40). Specifically, it was argued that the accusatory instruments “failed to contain facts of an evidentiary nature . . . and that they” were improperly based upon hearsay allegations. The Justice Court denied the motion.
After a non-jury trial, the Court found Makrides to be in violation of the rental permit ordinance and fined her $5,000.00 for each charge. Makrides appealed.
The Appellate Term reversed both convictions, finding that facial insufficiency is a nonwaivable jurisdictional prerequisite to a criminal prosecution (CPL 100.40). Finding that the statement made by the renter to be hearsay, and not supported by a deposition, it was an error for the Justice Court to rely on said testimony. The testimony of the renter is clearly an out of court statement introduced in court for the truth of the matter at hand, to wit; classic hearsay testimony.
Consequently, the Appellate Term held that without said hearsay testimony, the Informations alleging that the defendant failed to obtain a rental occupancy permit – without saying why it was necessary for her to obtain one – failed to contain “factual allegations . . . through nonhearsay allegations . . . of the offense charged and defendant’s commission thereof.”
Abiding by principles of judicial restraint, the Court declined to make a further finding that the Port Jefferson Village Rental Permit Ordinance was unconstitutional. It did, however, require the Village to remit, if paid, the combined $10,000.00 fine to the defendant.