The Second Department dismissed a jurisdictionally defective count of the indictment, held the People’s attempt to amend that count was not authorized, held that certain Sandoval evidence should not have been admitted, but deemed the Sandoval error harmless and upheld defendant’s convictions on the other counts:
… [C]ount 1 of the indictment alleged that “in the course of effecting entry into said dwelling,” the defendant “was armed with a dangerous weapon, to wit: a knife.” Inasmuch as the offense of burglary in the first degree requires that the defendant be armed with a “deadly weapon,” a term which is specifically defined in Penal Law § 10.00(12) and which definition includes only certain specified knives, count 1 of the indictment was jurisdictionally defective because it failed to effectively charge the defendant with the commission of a crime (see id. §§ 10.00, 140.30).
… CPL 200.70(2)(a) prohibits any amendment of an indictment when the amendment is needed to cure “[a] failure thereof to charge or state an offense” … .
… Although “questioning concerning other crimes is not automatically precluded simply because the crimes to be inquired about are similar to the crimes charged” … , “‘cross-examination with respect to crimes or conduct similar to that of which the defendant is presently charged may be highly prejudicial, in view of the risk, despite the most clear and forceful limiting instructions to the contrary, that the evidence will be taken as some proof of the commission of the crime charged rather than be reserved solely to the issue of credibility'” … . People v Bloome, 2022 NY Slip Op 03398, Second Dept 5-25-22
Practice Point: Only certain knives meet the definition of “deadly weapon” as used in the burglary first statute. Therefore the count which alleged defendant was armed with a knife did not allege burglary first and was therefore jurisdictionally defective. A count which does not state an offense cannot be amended pursuant to CPL 200.70. The Sandoval ruling, which allowed defendant to be cross-examined about crimes similar to those with which he was charged, was (harmless) error.