While I certainly do not condone violence, if you punch someone two or three times in the face with a clenched fist, bloody up their mouth and cause them to go to the hospital for a stitch or two, an allegation of Third Degree Assault would likely survive a criminal defense attorney’s motion to dismiss the charge of New York Penal Law 120.00(1). No, it doesn’t mean you will not or cannot have defense at trial (self defense for example), but from a legal perspective your conduct satisfies the elements of the crime almost on its face. Again, you may still try, but seeking a dismissal for legal sufficiency will likely be quite difficult. Despite this, not all crimes or criminal conduct is so clear. When a court has to examine words used, the intent of those words and the reasonable implications of your speech, the court has much more to juggle than determining your intent when you balled up your fist. This more difficult type of review happens with a greater degree of regularity in cases involving Second Degree Aggravated Harassment pursuant to New York Penal Law 240.30. A class “A” misdemeanor, Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree is a crime often seen, but is not exclusive to, New York Domestic Violence cases. Where an arrest or allegation does not involve a familial or intimate relationship, the police will consider issuing the accused a Desk Appearance Ticket. Regardless of how a PL 240.30 case is prosecuted, words, and how they are reflected in a criminal court complaint, matter. This blog entry will address how words and statements that may seem threatening on their face may not in fact violate certain sections of the New York criminal law.
New York Penal Law 120.00 is New York’s misdemeanor Assault crime. As a result, any time a complainant or alleged victim makes an claim that another person struck, hit, punched, etc., him or her, prosecutors will routinely add Third Degree Assault to the list of crimes on a criminal court complaint. Similarly, Second Degree Harassment, New York Penal Law 240.26, is a violation that is not a legal “lesser offense,” but an offense nonetheless that Assistant District Attorneys will throw at the accused. Because PL 120.00, a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to one year in jail, is a gravely concerning charge whether by Desk Appearance Ticket or full on arrest and processing, it is imperative to do your best to challenge your arrest at every stage of the criminal process well before you on trial. One of the means to do so at the earliest stage is for your criminal defense attorney to file a motion arguing that the complaint against you is legally of facially insufficient to support the elements and crime of Assault in the Third Degree. On avenue your criminal lawyer may pursue is arguing that on the face of the complaint the prosecution failed to establish that as a result of your alleged actions, even if true, you caused the “victim” to suffer a physical injury and substantial pain.
It is well settled, and worth getting out of the way right from the start, that operability or a working weapon is generally an essential part of a Criminal Possession of a Weapon charge and crime pursuant to New York Penal Law Article 265. In substance, this means that if a person is accused of possessing a firearm illegally, one of the central elements it that the firearm – gun, pistol, revolver – actually be capable of letting off a shot. This is most easily confirmed through a ballistics test by the police department. If the firearm is incapable of shooting and the ballistics test confirms this failure, then the firearm will not qualify as a firearm for the purpose of certain sections of Criminal Possession of a Weapon. Should it not be operable, your criminal defense attorney would move for a dismissal of the Grand Jury indictment or the criminal court complaint.
While the above may seem great to an accused person, his or her criminal defense lawyer may have some bad news . Yes, an indictment or criminal court complaint may not be legally sufficient, for example, charging New York Penal Law 265.01, New York Penal Law 265.02 or New York Penal Law 265.03, but unless you are solely charged with possessing a weapon or dangerous instrument, does inoperability mean that all other crimes that you face that are associated with that weapon fail as well? The short answer is a resounding “no.”
A gun is not always a gun in the eyes of the law. A firearm is not always a firearm as it is defined by New York criminal court judges. An arrest for a can of mace, you guessed it, is not always a can of mace for the purpose of New York Penal Law 265.01. Confusing, right? Maybe not. A critical factor or element to weapon crimes in New York is whether or not that particular weapon is operable. It is not merely enough to possess a firearm, a “dangerous knife” or other “dangerous or deadly instrument” with the intent to use it against another person if operation is required. Certainly, these are elements to PL 265.01(2), but as your criminal lawyer should be able to explain to you, if the object in question is not operable, then you very well could, and likely should, have grounds to seek a dismissal of the Criminal Possession of a Weapon charge for which you were arrested.
Drunk Driving, Driving Drunk, DUI, DWI, Driving While Intoxicated…Whatever you call it, an arrest in New York for VTL 1192 has certain mandatory elements that the District Attorney must ultimately prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Sure, most cases do not go to trial, but the NYPD or the County or local police in Westchester, for example, must still have probable cause to arrest a subject for VTL 1192. Simply, there must still be some level of evidence and reasonable cause to believe that you, or whomever the accused is, committed a crime of DWI. Being “drunk” is one thing, driving or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated is quite another. One may a good time while the other endangers the lives of everyone on the road. In the realm of the New York criminal law, if there is no evidence or proof that you were operating a vehicle (not necessarily driving), then there is no criminal case. This particular blog entry addresses a scenario where the accused drunk driver was not merely not driving (double negative, but you get the point), but he was also not inside the vehicle. How then, or better yet, can prosecutors overcome a challenge to dismiss a VTL 1192 arrest in New York where neither the police nor any other witness observes or sees the defendant driving or operating a motor vehicle?
A few years ago the New York State Legislature tightened up the Second Degree Aggravated Harassment crime found in the New York Penal Law. Whether by Desk Appearance Ticket in Manhattan or by Domestic Violence Arrest in Brooklyn, the law was no longer vague. More specifically, addressing solely subsection (1)(b) or New York Penal Law 240.30, it is a class “A” misdemeanor if you have an intent to harass another person and you cause a communication to be initiated by telephone, email, or any electronic means. This communication must be a threat to cause physical injury or unlawful harm to the person or property of that person or a member of his or her family or household. Moreover, when making your communication you should reasonably know that it will cause a reasonable fear of such an injury or harm.
Well, if that isn’t wordy enough, let’s try to get right to the point of this blog. Simply, what type of speech or statements violate PL 240.30(1)(b) and when does your language necessitate the assistance of a criminal defense attorney to challenge the legal sufficiency of a complaint you face in a New York criminal court?
New York Penal Law 265.01(1), Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon, delineates the type of weapons that are per se, aka, automatically, weapons in New York based on the law no matter how you intended on using them. If you knowingly possess the weapon, then you are guilty. No, you are not merely walking into a courtroom with your criminal lawyer and pleading guilty to a misdemeanor crime that is accompanied by a sentence of up to one year in jail, but you are guilty barring certain defenses, such as challenging the probable cause for your arrest and how you were searched. This is because there is a strict liability standard at trial assuming the prosecution proves their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Looking at it slightly differently, you always have the ability to challenge an arrest on legal, factual, evidentiary, and mitigation grounds, but without any defense, a jury or judge can find you guilty if the People meet their burden.
Putting aside this strict liability standard and whether or not the NYPD and District Attorney should be prosecuting honest, hard working, regular people who legally purchase one of these gravity knifes at Home Depot, Amazon, a local sporting goods store or any other retailer having no reason to believe that in New York it is a crime to possess such a “weapon,” other types of blades and objects can be considered dangerous instruments and weapons depending on the matter they are possessed or used. The statutory authority to prosecute these crimes is also Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon, but is found in New York Penal Law 265.01(2). This entry will address a recent court decision examining the legal sufficiency of a PL 265.01(2) arrest and prosecution in connection to the possession of a box cutter.
Jeremy Saland and Elizabeth Crotty, founding partners at the New York criminal defense firm Crotty Saland PC, are excited to announce that their New York Criminal Lawyer Blog finished as the top criminal law blog in the nation after the Expert Institute closed its polls and tallied all its votes. Competing against more than 500 blogs where north of 30,000 readers cast their votes for the best legal and top lawyer blogs, the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog did not merely compete, but took home this highest honor of “Best Criminal Law Blog.” Outpacing multiple dozens of law related blogs (or blawgs), the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog ranked as the best criminal defense blog both in New York and across the entire United States as per readers’ votes. Not stopping there, the blog reached as high as eighth overall across all categories during the top blog competition. Continue reading
Whether you are a high school teacher, elementary school nurse, administrative staff or a paraprofessional, if you are employed by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) an arrest and prosecution raises numerous flags in both the criminal court and with the City of New York. Simply, any arrest – misdemeanor or felony, through a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) or being hauled before a judge in criminal court – involves numerous moving pieces that you must address to preserve your career. Certainly, any arrest for any person is compromising. A shoplifting arrest in Manhattan where you are given a DAT for PL 155.25 or PL 165.40, a cocaine or other drug possession charging PL 220.03 in Brooklyn or even a turnstile jump or failure to pay a cab resulting in an arrest for PL 165.15 in Queens may not seem to be the most serious crime in the spectrum of New York City prosecutions, but to a DOE teacher or other employee, the concerns are real. Again, any arrest is compromising, but even if there is a limited likelihood for incarceration and you are not charged with an Assault, Grand Larceny or DWI, there are steps you must take in addition to those you are pursuing before the criminal court where you and your criminal defense attorney are fighting the allegations. To start, you should examine and review Chancellor’s Regulation C-105 that dictates the policy and management for arrests involving DOE employees.
I’ve been arrested for Second Degree Criminal Contempt. I don’t understand why I am being prosecuted for New York Penal Law 215.50. How can the police arrest me or the DA prosecute me without naming the victim or protected party? While I may have posed those questions as a New York criminal defense attorney and not an accused, they are quite reasonable ones to ask. After all, if the complaint against you is not legally sufficient regardless if you’re charged with NY PL 215.50 or any other crime, then ultimately your criminal defense lawyer will likely file a motion to dismiss or seek the dismissal of your criminal case on some other procedural grounds. Generally speaking, however, one of the common difficulties securing a dismissal of a Second Degree Criminal Contempt arrest and charge is that even where a victim is not compliant either a third party or other evidence can corroborate there was contact in violation of a court order. This evidence can come from a friend who observed a defendant having contact with a victim or even text messages or phone records reflecting the same. After addressing the crime of PL 215.50, the purpose of this particular blog entry is to provide an example of an insufficient criminal complaint where conclusions by the NYPD did not satisfy the burden that prosecutors are required to reach.